Greece outperformed other European Union countries in the travel and tourism sector last year, according to latest figures.

The sector grew at a rate of 6.9% – more than three and a half times the pace of the wider national economy, which grew by 2%.

The country outpaced the EU’s regional travel and tourism growth rate of 2.4%.

The sector represents 20.6% of Greek GDP compared to a global average of 10.4%.

This means that one in every five euros spent in Greece last year came from travel and tourism, worth €37.5 billion.

International visitor spend of €18.5 billion represented 27.9% of total exports.

Two-thirds of travel spend in Greece came from international travellers (66%), and one-third from domestic travel (34%), the latest economic review by the World Travel & Tourism Council shows.

One quarter of all employment in Greece is based in travel and tourism – equivalent to almost one million jobs.

The figure is forecast to surpass the one million mark in 2019 for the first time since WTTC records began.

Even at the height of economic performance before the financial crisis, Greece still employed less people in the sector – 934,500 in 2006 – than it did in 2018.

This indicates that not only has the sector economy recovered but it is now outperforming its previous peaks, the WTTC said.

WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara said: “We are hugely impressed by the Greek growth rate, and the government strategies that have spurred it on.

“Travel and tourism has had a huge role to play in driving Greek economic recovery, and is a chief employer of people.

“Greece is an exemplary case study of how valuable an asset travel and tourism can be when the government prioritises the sector.”

Tourism minister Elena Kountoura added: “Our long-term tourism strategy that we implemented since 2015 led to outstanding results in Greece’s tourism growth, and supported profoundly the Greek economy in the most difficult years of the crisis.

“We achieved our target in creating thousands of new jobs, new business activity, new sources of income, and in mobilising new tourism investments.

“With our growth plan, we intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximise its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity.”