Taking under consideration that tourism can bridge Greece and Turkey in the context of development, the North Aegean Region showcased 10 inhabited Greek islands to Turkish professionals and visitors at this year’s East Mediterranean Tourism and Travel Exhibition – EMITT in Istanbul during January 28-31.
“We attend several international exhibitions and try to communicate that the North Aegean islands have something different to offer“, Christiana Kalogirou, Governor of North Aegean Region, told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) on the sidelines of the EMITT expo.
“Each of these 10 inhabited islands have something different for the traveller, either in terms of geotourism or gastronomy… In these difficult times, we must promote these alternative forms of tourism that will attract visitors to our islands”, she said.
In close distance and accessible by boat, the islands of the North Aegean Region are in fact already on the bucket list of Turkish travellers. The region, however, is aiming for Turkish travellers to extend their holidays when they vacation on the North Aegean islands and are communicating that the islands offer much more than just sun and sea.
Vision to become “tourism hub”
“Our vision is for the North Aegean islands to be the link — the stopover — for Turkish tourists to visit other islands and the rest of Greece… For our islands to be the hub through which all Turkish tourists will pass to enter Greece and visit Athens, Thessaloniki and other areas in the country”, the governor said.
Referring to a map displayed on the region’s stand at the EMITT expo that showed which islands of the North Aegean host airports, Ms Kalogirou told the GTP that the region is currently in discussions for direct flights to be launched from Turkey to the islands.
“From the islands there are connections with many parts of Greece… Our islands can be the tourism hub from Turkey by sea and by air”, she said.
In regards to the large number of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey and entering Europe through many Greek islands, Ms Kalogirou assured that the region agrees for screening centers to operate on the islands so the refugees can be identified and then depart for their final destination.
The governor of the North Aegean referred to the refugee crisis as one of the “biggest issue of our time”, not only to the Greek islands but to all of Europe and the wider region.
“It is an international problem and it should be addressed as one”, she said.
She added that the refugee crisis is an immense and difficult situation which has two sides. “On the one hand, we have the international issues that concern peace, which will be dealt by the leaders. What we (the region) can do is associated to another word: humanity“, she underlined.
“This concerns everyone and we are making efforts to contribute to humanity”, she said.
Turkey’s tourism minister visits North Aegean island stand
On the first day of EMITT 2016, Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mahir Unai, visited the stand of the North Aegean islands and had a very friendly conversation with Governor Kalogirou.
During their discussion, she underlined that “culture is the bridge which connects the joint efforts for the benefit of the two peoples.”
Ms Kalogirou invited the Turkish minister to any one of the North Agean islands — from Limnos to Ikaria — and informed him that anyone who visits the islands have the opportunity to taste unique local products and experience a wide range of activities related to the mountain and the sea.
“When they depart, our visitors are left with the desire of their new next visit,” she said.
Geotourism in the North Aegean
On the sidelines of the EMITT expo, Governor Kalogirou hosted a presentation on the Petrified Forest of Lesvos and other unique natural monuments of the North Aegean islands. The presentation was given to a group of Turkish travel agents from Izmir by the director of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest Professor Nikolaos Zouros.
Geotourism is one of the tourism forms the Region of North Aegean is focusing on aiming to offer its visitors a unique experience during their holidays on the region’s islands.
“Our islands, from Limnos to Ikaria, have unique natural monuments that offer visitors the unique opportunity to admire the scenery while enjoying many activities… Upon their departure from our islands, we want visitors to keep the memory of the unique beauties of nature they saw”, she said and invited the Turkish travel agents to include the North Aegean islands geotourism activities in their travel packages.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) was a media partner to EMITT 2016.