Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Monday shared the strategic goals of the Tourism Ministry and the direction that Greece will be moving towards in the coming years, in accordance to the country’s 10-year tourism plan that is currently under preparation.
“Our vision is ‘Greece – The full experience, as you never have imagined before’, which addresses every tourist, every season and every destination,” Minister Theoharis said while speaking during a press conference focused on Greek tourism, held on the opening day of the World Travel Market (WTM) 2019 in London.
Underlining that Greece as a destination offers a multilevel and a multifaceted experience – since the country is “much more than sea, sun, beaches and ancient monuments” – the minister said that the 10-year plan for Greek tourism will focus on three main areas: quality, sustainability and authenticity.
“The visitor must depart our country having seen, heard, tasted, smelled, experience Greece all the way,” Minister Theoharis underlined.
“This can be done by shifting to complex or powering new age trends that enrich tourist products such as city breaks, medical, wellness, sports, educational, religious, gastronomy, conferences and many more destination management techniques,” he said.
Regarding destination management, the minister said that the aim includes the promotion of more sustainable practices in order to establish more Greek sustainable destinations on the map, this way making the country one of the top global sustainable destinations.
“We are currently in discussions with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to see how we are going to plan for the next years to have specific targets of sustainability,” the minister said.
Greece doesn’t use the word ‘overtourism’
When questioned on how Greece will deal with “overtourism” in some of its popular destinations, Minister Theoharis replied: “We don’t use the word ‘overtourism’ even for Santorini.”
The minister underlined that according to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), in terms of how stressed a destination is, Santorini is nowhere near other overstressed destinations.
“This is not an issue of overtourism. This is an issue of managing a destination and the flows,” he said.
According to the minister, with the help of local and regional authorities, a plan must be put in place for better destination management to deliver a “much better and richer experience” to every visitor on islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.
“We are aiming to put together a comprehensive plan over the next few months and stick to it for the years ahead,” Minister Theoharis underlined.
Attracting visitors during the shoulder months
On attracting more tourists to the country and if Greece can stand the “weight”, the minister referred to two directions that Greece needs to follow: expanding infrastructure but also expanding some of the country’s products so as to attract visitors during the shoulder months.
“There are many things that we can do with the current infrastructure that stands idle during the shoulder season… We will take two directions: increase the ceiling [on arrivals] but also try to widen the shoulder season and promote new destinations that will allow idle infrastructure to begin to rise,” he said, adding that connectivity is key to attract visitors all year round.
“Greece needs many more direct flights, both winter flights and generally,” he said.
No Thomas Cook ‘bump’ for Greece in 2020
When asked the size of the problem that the collapse of Thomas Cook caused the country, the minister highlighted that the ministry was quick to support Greece’s hotels and tourist enterprises that faced problems and is now looking to “close the gap” that opened for the 2020 tourism season.
“We are very confident. Greece is such a strong destination that there will certainly be no long term effects but even in season 2020, we will not ‘feel’ the ‘bump’ that Thomas Cook created… We will actively support this. For example, we are starting our advertisement program very early – as of January – with the GNTO,” he said, adding that the lost slots is the biggest problem for Greece.
“But the good news is that we have much more demand (from airline companies) already for those lost slots,” he highlighted.
Greece in 2018 attracted some 33 million tourists, including cruise arrivals.
According to Minister Theoharis, arrival numbers in 2019 are showing a three percent increase, compared to the previous year.
“We will finish this year on a positive trend. The numbers show that we are moving towards that direction,” he said.