ATHENS, May 23 (Reuters) - Hyatt Hotels Corp. will open its first Grand Hyatt hotel in Greece and its third in Europe, the company said, underscoring the growth in tourism in the country.
The 310-room 5-star luxury hotel is expected to open in the third quarter, Hyatt said, in the premises of the former Ledra Marriott Hotel. The Ledra, with stunning Acropolis views, once hosted Hollywood stars and politicians but was forced to shut in 2016 by the economic crisis after more than three decades.
The project marks "a significant milestone in Southeast Europe, an important growth market for Hyatt," said Takuya Aoyama, a Hyatt vice president for Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS.
Tourism, together with shipping, is Greece's main industry, driving a tentative economic recovery after years of depression that pushed unemployment to record highs.
The country of about 11 million attracted over 27 million tourists in 2017, up from 24.8 million in 2016. In March, foreign arrivals were up 30.3 percent year-on-year, according to the latest available data by Greek Tourism Confederation SETE.
It also accounted for a quarter of all jobs in 2017, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which forecast the number to rise by 5.6 percent this year.
While the islands remain top destinations, visitors who shunned Athens at the height of the crisis, when violent anti-government protests marred the streets, are also returning to the capital.
Hyatt's Athens hotel will be the group's second in Greece alongside the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, which opened in Greece's second-largest city in 1999.
The group said it had signed a franchise agreement with Henderson Park, the property investor, and Hines, the global real estate firm, for its latest project.
"Our investment into Grand Hyatt Athens was driven by its potential as a luxury asset with a historic heritage," said Nick Weber, founding partner of Henderson Park.
Hyatt also has Grand Hyatts in Istanbul and Berlin. (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris Editing by Alexandra Hudson)