By Nikos Krinis
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura over the weekend visited the city of Trikala and presented the ministry’s plans for the tourism development of the Greek region of Thessaly. The visit to Trikala was part of the minister’s weekend tour of the Region of Thessaly, Central Greece, and included visits to Kalambaka, Karditsa, Volos and Larissa.
During her visits, Minister Kountoura held meetings with regional figures, representatives of tourism bodies and associations, entrepreneurs and hoteliers. Discussions focused on a range of issues including the further development of the Nea Achialos Airport (Volos), the promotion of alternative forms of tourism, NSRF programs for tourism SMEs and establishing Greece as a 365-day a year tourism destination.
“Thessaly is an ideal destination for attracting visitors throughout the year and for promoting thematic forms of tourism…”- Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura
Speaking during an event at the Chamber of Trikala, Kountoura referred to the ministry’s plans for Thessaly’s tourism development. She underlined that the ministry is interested in having a continuous and close cooperation with the Region of Thessaly, its municipalities and all local tourism bodies in order to more effectively promote the tourism product and destinations of Trikala to international markets.
Minister Kountoura said that the development of Thessaly’s thematic tourism forms and the promotion of the competitive advantages of each destination are part of the ministry’s national tourism policy to establish Greece as a 365-day a year tourism destination.
According to the minister, the ministry is running a joint program for Greek destinations with the Greek National Tourism Organization that includes joint advertising, co-promotion, enhanced presence in international tourism exhibitions, promotion to global travel platforms and satellite television networks, extensive social media and traditional media promotional activities and the organization of familiarization trips to Greece for foreign tour operators and media outlets.
“Thessaly is an ideal destination for attracting visitors throughout the year and for promoting thematic forms of tourism such as religious tourism, agrotourism and hiking tourism,” Minister Kountoura said.
While in Trikala, she met with the municipality’s mayor, Dimitris Papastergiou, and covered a number of topics including the promotion of the city’s cultural and educational tourism forms with a focus on its thematic museums. The mayor also requested for the ministry’s support for the construction of the city’s Asklipios Museum, the promotion of cycling tourism and the use of thermal resources for the development of thermalism and health and wellness tourism.
During her visit to Kalambaka, Minister Kountoura held a meeting with the Deputy Regional Governor of Thessaly, responsible for tourism, Yannis Boutinas; Kalambaka Mayor Christos Sinanis; the president of the Trikala Hoteliers Association, Sotiris Famisis and representatives of associations and institutions in the region.
During the meeting, Kountoura referred to Meteora’s high reputation and the increase in visitors from markets such as Russia. On their part, local bodies showed interest in the tourism development possibilities from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) programs for the promotion of alternative tourism forms. The local bodies also are interested in certifying the area’s paths for hiking tourists and boosting the connection of Nea Anchialos Airport with foreign markets.
Minister Kountoura informed that a new NSRF program for tourism will soon be launched to support up to 50 percent of the budget for the establishment of new small and medium-sized tourism enterprises that also include thematic tourism activities.
Moreover, the minister said that the ministry was looking to boost direct flights to Nea Anchialos Airport and establish new connections from abroad.
Attending a meeting in the Chamber of Karditsa, Minister Kountoura set out the ministry’s objectives and priorities for the area’s tourism development.
She underlined that the target for Karditsa to be established as a 365-day a year tourism destination is feasible through the development of alternative tourism, which can attract a larger number of visitors and support the season’s extension.
Attendees at the meeting, which included the chamber’s president, Vironas Pappas and the vice governor of Karditsa, Vassilis Tsiakos, called for the ministry’s support in promoting the area’s comparative advantages and natural and tourism resources. In particular, the possibilities of strengthening cultural and religious tourism as well as health and wellness tourism with the further development of thermal springs were discussed. Also discussed were ways to connect the agri-food sector with tourism, the development of wine tourism, the promotion of hiking trails and cycling tourism. Moreover, the priorities on infrastructure and projects that can support further tourism development were also discussed.
Volos, Magnesia, Larissa
During her visit to Volos, Minister Kountoura explored ways for the further tourism development of the regional unit of Magnesia and its promotion as an attractive destination for tourism 365 days a year, with the representatives of the Hotel Association of Magnesia, the Chamber of Magnesia and the Volos Port Authority. Volos is the capital of Magnesia.
Attendees to the meeting included the president of the Hotel Association of Magnesia, Giorgos Zafiiris; the representative of the Skopelos Hotels Association, Maria Diamanti; and the vice president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Kostas Leventis.
As in Kalambaka, the local professionals focused on the Nea Anchialos Airport and made proposals for its development.
On her part, Minister Kountoura said that Magnesia’s tourism has been steadily increasing over the last two years. “With the cooperation of all, the actions for the dynamic promotion of Magnesia’s tourism product aiming to attract visitors all 365 days a year, which is the aim of the national and regional tourism policy, will be pursued,” the minister said.
She also visited the Agiokampos and Agia coasts of the Prefecture of Larissa and met with local authorities with whom she discussed issues on the area’s tourism development, the upgrading of infrastructure and the promotion of thematic forms of tourism that the region can support.
According to the president of the Magnesia Hotel Association, Kountoura was the first tourism minister that visited Magnesia and showed interest in further developing the region.