For “Mamma Mia” fans Greece is the word; ‘new’ Olympic Air due for launch in October

Image: The sleepy Greek Island of Skopelos (a backdrop to Hollywood movie Mamma Mia)
Mamma Mia effect: The once sleepy Greek Island of Skopelos (a backdrop to Hollywood movie Mamma Mia) is now a haven for tourists…

The global success of the movie “Mamma Mia”, a musical based on the songs by the Swedish pop group Abba has apparently had a positive impact on tourism to Greece. For anyone not familiar with the movie the action (comprising lots of singing and dancing) is set on a Greek Island and ends in a wedding. As a result couples all over Europe are now exploring the possibility of doing a Mamma Mia and getting married on a Greek island. This is good news for Greek tourism.

Chart: Greek airport traffic 2002-2008
Source: Aerostat

Traffic developments at Athens airport were recently analysed by but one additional fact is worth noting. Since 2002 Athens airport’s share of Greek airport traffic has actually increased from 35% to just over 40%. The recent opening of the hugely impressive Acropolis Museum in Athens will give potential visitors to the Greek capital another reason to visit.

Overall traffic at Greek airports between 2002 and 2008 has grown by just 22.5% (or an average of just 3.4% per annum). Domestic traffic in that period grew by 40% while tourist-driven international traffic grew by just 16% over a six-year period.

Heraklion leading Greek island airport

Heraklion airport on the island of Crete is by far the biggest Greek island airport for international traffic with over four million passengers in 2008. Four other island airports handle over one million international passengers annually: Rhodes, Corfu, Kos and Chania.

Chart: Leading Greek Island airports 2008
Source: Aerostat, UK CAA, Destatis

Germany and the UK are the two leading country markets for inbound tourists to Greece and in some cases (Corfu and Zakinthos) traffic from these two countries alone accounts for over 50% of all foreign arrivals.

Airport Pax from all UK airports
June 2008
Pax from all UK airports
June 2009
Heraklion (HER) 134,923 126,351 -6.4%
Corfu (CFU) 127,055 109,561 -13.8%
Zakinthos (ZTH) 102,889 87,432 -15.0%
Rhodes (RHO) 86,878 71,973 -17.2%
Kos (KGS) 53,641 41,939 -21.8%
Source: UK CAA

Latest figures from the UK CAA indicate that UK traffic to the five biggest island markets is down around 13% in June this year. The smaller the market the bigger the drop in passenger numbers in percentage terms.

“New Olympic” coming soon

Logo: Olympic AirWhat with “New Alitalia” and “New Vueling” this seems to be the year for re-inventing European airlines. Having already used the Olympic Airlines and Olympic Airways names the latest incarnation of the newly privatised national carrier will be named Olympic Air. It is owned by Marfin Investment Group, a leading Greek investment company. The new airline will initially only be allowed to be around 65% of the size of Olympic Airlines (in 2008).

The airline recently placed an order for eight Q400s which will be delivered from September 2010. In the meantime it will be using four Q400s supplied by UK regional airline Flybe under ACMI leases. Several Airbus aircraft are also being sourced for the start of operations. When the ‘new’ airline officially launches on 1 October, will be taking a close look at its network strategy.

Image: On July 25th, Hellenic Imperial Airways began a weekly service between Athens and Birmingham
On 25 July, Hellenic Imperial Airways began a weekly service between Athens and Birmingham (its first UK airport) using a 747-200. Aegean Airlines has announced it will connect London Heathrow with Athens twice-daily from 25 October.


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