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Greece Keen on Developing Tourism Along the Silk Road

Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB) President Yiannis Aslanis, Secretary General for Tourism Policy and Development George Tziallas, UNWTO Executive Director Shanzhong Zhu, Thessaloniki Tourism Organization President Voula Patoulidou, Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism and Culture Alexandros Thanos, TCB Vice President Irini Sidiropoulou.

Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB) President Yiannis Aslanis, Secretary General for Tourism Policy and Development George Tziallas, UNWTO Executive Director Shanzhong Zhu, Thessaloniki Tourism Organization President Voula Patoulidou, Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism and Culture Alexandros Thanos, TCB Vice President Irini Sidiropoulou.

“The 8th international meeting can and will send a strong message for collective action… and make this great idea of the Silk Road Tourism become soon a reality.” – Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Thursday concluded the 8th UNWTO International Meeting on Silk Road Tourism, underlining the need for the member states participating in the Silk Road initiative to connect, network and implement joint actions.

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura.

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura.

“This way Silk Road Tourism can soon become a real travel experience, with diversified tourism products and offerings that meet the needs of modern travelers,” Minister Kountoura said during the closing ceremony of the event in Thessaloniki.

The UNWTO’s Silk Road Tourism initiative is designed to enhance sustainable tourism development along the historic Silk Road route, which links China with the West.

“As Greece has its own unique silk road heritage, dating back to the times of Alexander the Great, and its ancient unique cultural routes, each country has its own incredible heritage to showcase and to add value to the Silk Road Tourism Program,” the minister said.

Silk Road countries. Photo source: UNWTO

Silk Road countries. Photo source: UNWTO

According to the minister, the program is essential in providing new opportunities for growth and prosperity, for the local communities and for all involved, countries, the private sector, all stakeholders.

“I strongly believe the 8th international meeting can and will send a strong message for collective action, for taking the next big step that will make this great idea of the Silk Road Tourism become soon a reality, bridging Europe, Asia and other parts of the world, and bringing people together,” Minister Kountoura concluded.

Running October 10-12 in Thessaloniki, the UNWTO’s international meeting on Silk Road tourism attracted over 300 delegates from 19 UNWTO member states that explored ways to develop common tourism products and routes, joint promotional activities and exchange of know-how and good practices in tourism.

On her side, Minister Kountura discussed further partnerships with the UNWTO, underlining that Greece is in the position to take on additional international initiatives within the Silk Road Tourism program.

During her meeting with UNWTO’s secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili and executive director, Shanzhong Zhu, it was agreed that Greece and the organization would work more closely in the areas of investment, innovation and education.

In this direction, Pololikashvili proposed for Greece in 2019 to host major international investment and innovation forums of the UNWTO, which will focus on the development of startups and new technologies in tourism.

While in Thessaloniki, Minister Kountura’s agenda also included meetings with the national delegations from Uzbekistan, Bulgaria and Turkey.

In her meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, Aziz Abdukhaminov, the possibility of exchanging good practices in the field of sustainable tourism development was discussed.

Abdukhaminov underlined the dynamic presence of the Greek element in Uzbekistan, which he believes can act as a basis to boost the tourism cooperation of the two countries.

Minister Kountoura also met with Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Lyuben Kanchev, who discussed the possibility of developing joint destinations for Bulgaria’s and Northern Greece’s long-haul markets in Asia (China, Japan, Korea, India) with a focus on thematic travel experiences.

The launch of direct air connections between Thessaloniki and the specific Asian markets was also discussed.

Moreover, in her meeting with Turkey’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Omer Arisoy, Minister Kountoura discussed developing cruise tourism in the Eastern Mediterranean following the sharp decline of the sector in Turkey in previous years.

Arisoy suggested that tourism working group meetings should be considered in order to achieve greater tourism development between the two countries.

Τhe high level 8th UNWTO International Meeting on Silk Road Tourism in Thessaloniki was jointly organized by the  UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Greek Tourism Ministry and the Region of Central Macedonia.

Event partners to the event include Aegean Airlines, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB), the Thessaloniki Tourism Organization and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Greece was the first European country to host the UNWTO’s high level event.

About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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