By Nikos Krinis
The Tourism Ministry is aiming for Greece, by 2020, to be established as a leading, attractive and safe destination that offers authentic thematic tourism experiences 365 days a year, Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said on Tuesday in Athens.
Speaking during the 16th Tourism & Development Conference of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) in Athens, Minister Kountoura developed the ministry’s goals and underlined that tourism tops the list of the government’s priorities.
“We are aiming for balanced and fair growth that will bring steady benefits to our national economy,” Kountoura said.
Underlining that for the first time Greece has a unified national and regional tourism policy, the minister noted that the aim is for each Greek region to develop its tourism in accordance to sustainability and for benefits to be contributed to the local economies and societies by creating new jobs, new entrepreneurship, new professional activity and new sources of income.
Minister Kountoura made special reference to the strategic development axes of Greek tourism, which include the extension of the summer tourism season, the opening of new tourism markets (Middle East, China, South Korea, India), connectivity (150 extra new direct connections with Greek destinations), the promotion of new Greek destinations via strategic agreements with tour operators abroad and the promotion of thematic tourism products.
Focusing on tourism investment, she underlined that Greece managed to reverse the climate and gain investor trust. According to the minister, since the beginning of 2016, the ministry has received over 300 requests for investments in four- and five-star existing hotels and for the licensing of special tourism infrastructure projects, as well as 251 new hotel investment requests.
New actions to promote Greek products
During her speech, the minister said that the Greek government is aiming to link tourism with the country’s primary production, agricultural and agri-food sectors and promote unique local products that are an essential part of each Greek destination’s identity.
Kountoura said that the ministry would establish an Agri-Food and Tourism Forum, in cooperation with the ministries of economy and rural development, which will process and propose appropriate policies and encourage the creation of value chains, networking and other clusters of the tourism and manufacturing enterprises of the primary and secondary sectors.
The ministry will also grant the new seals of “Greek Cuisine” and “Visiting Winery” to eligible enterprises and support the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels’ “Greek Breakfast” initiative.
Moreover, the ministry will determine (through a joint ministerial dcision) the requirements for Greek enterprises to be included in the Leader program (EU initiative to support rural development projects) that is run by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food. A joint ministerial decision will also be prepared in reference to the conditions, specifications and operating conditions for individual or group agrotourism activities, as well as for the granting of a special Agrotourism seal.
Minister Kountoura also announced that a program aimed to support (up to 50 percent) the establishment of new small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, specializing in thematic forms of tourism, will launch through the EPAnEk (NSRF 2014-2020).
She added that the ministry is supporting sustainable tourism actions and programs and is also in close cooperation with Enterprise Greece for the coordinated promotion of Greek products to markets abroad.
Ministry invites SETE to work together
Ending her speech, Kountoura invited the new leadership of SETE to work closely together to implement joint actions focused on the global promotion of Greece.
“The Tourism Ministry and the Greek National Tourism Organization are at your disposal with the vast experience and know-how, with a wide network of contacts and partners abroad, with connections with tourism bodies, and this way, at no cost, we can support the national effort in the global promotion of the unique destination named ‘Greece’,” she said.
SETE’s 16th Tourism and Development Conference was held under the theme “Greek Tourism: The Perfect Balancing Act” and focused on the dynamic role of tourism in contributing to environmental, economic and social sustainability.
Held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in Athens, the conference’s sessions presented international best practices, analyzed spatial planning issues and explored ways to increase the social footprint of tourism in Greece. Emphasis was also placed on the interconnection of tourism with the agri-food sector and its importance in creating comparative advantages for the Greek tourism product and consequently for local communities.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) was a media sponsor of SETE’s 16th Tourism and Development Conference.