South Aegean Region of Greece
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South Aegean

Greece’s iconic tourist islands

The South Aegean aims to be a top global tourism destination

The islands of the South Aegean are the showcase image of Greek tourism with their white-washed villages, sunny beaches, and blue skies.

Welcoming more than 6 million international visitors, the islands of the South Aegean are one of Greece’s top tourism destinations, particularly the islands of Mykonos and Santorini in the Cyclades island chain, and the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese.

The region comprises a total of 79 islands, 48 of which are populated. Ranking 2nd in terms of arrivals in 2018, under the 2014-2020 Operational Program, the region aims to develop its tourism industry further through investments in sustainable tourism and by encouraging tourism to the more than 30 other islands that make up the archipelago.

The region has an excellent support infrastructure for tourism, including several local airports and more than 200,000 hotel beds. In recent years, investors have been upgrading the region’s tourism offering through new 4- and 5-star hotels and resorts, while the region has also seen a sharp rebound in real estate prices. However, tourism pressures call for additional investments in public works infrastructure, including ports, marinas, power supply, and waste management facilities. The South Aegean boasts potential in renewable energy, particularly in wind energy, with an installed capacity of 92 MW in 2019 (HWEA).

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Key Facts
South Aegean

Greece’s most iconic tourist destination, with white-washed island villages and blue skies

Recent investments in top-end accommodations, particularly on Mykonos and Santorini

Sharp rebound in real estate prices driven by foreign demand


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Regional Opportunities




The South Aegean receives more than 6 million visitors a year.

The South Aegean has a well-developed tourism infrastructure of more than 200,000 hotel beds and a network of ports and airports. However, efforts to develop the sector further will require investments in new accommodations and public works, like ports, airports, marinas, power generation, and waste management. Business consultancy PwC estimates that Greece will need €4.8 billion in hotel accommodations by 2022 – including an additional 3,000 beds in the South Aegean – in order to meet demand trends.

Learn more about Tourism in Greece

Investment in fishing and aquaculture.

The region of the South Aegean remains one of Greece’s active fishing grounds, both for export purposes and to serve the regional tourism market. The region also has significant potential in fish farming, an industry where Greece is already a major producer and exporter to Europe – particularly in varieties like sea bass and sea bream.

Learn more about Agri-Food in Greece

Ferry services hold investment potential.

The archipelago of the South Aegean is heavily dependent on ferry services, both to and from the mainland and among the two island chains – the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. However, the deregulation of ferry services in Greece has had mixed results: improving connections to many popular islands but leaving others underserved, particularly outside the peak summer tourism season.

Learn more about Maritime in Greece

South Aegean
In Numbers

With a ratio of almost 20 foreign visitors to each inhabitant, the South Aegean’s tourism sector has kept incomes up and unemployment down.

  • €6,387 million

    GDP in 2018, in current prices

  • €18,700

    Per capita GDP in 2018, in current prices

  • 2nd

    Regional ranking of per capital GDP in 2018 (out of 13)

  • 1st

    Ranking based on tourism-related revenue (out of 13)

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South Aegean Demographics

The South Aegean’s tourism sector has drawn working-age people from across Greece.

Each year the population of the South Aegean islands balloons with the arrival of some 6 million overseas visitors. With a population of just over 300,000, residents of the islands welcome almost 20 times their number in tourists, something that has kept unemployment rates low by comparison with the rest of Greece and draws in young workers from around the country each summer. Tourism has also helped support incomes with the South Aegean above the national average.

  • 344,027

    Population (2019)

  • 3.21%

    Share of Greek population (2019)

  • 20.8%

    Tertiary Educational Attainment of population aged between 25-64 (2018)

  • 65.5/km2

    Population Density (2018)

Sources: Eurostat, Hellenic Statistical Authority, European Commission, Regional Governments, SETE, Enterprise Greece, and HWEA

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