Local authorities in Thessaloniki and the greater Central Macedonia region this year are counting on road arrivals from Greece’s neighboring countries to offset the negative impact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the tourism sector during the last two months.
Greece’s land borders will reopen for road tourism arrivals on June 15, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently announced.
Road travel has always been one of the region’s strongest assets in tourism, with the number of arrivals to Greece’s borders from the Balkan countries increasing by 33 percent during January 2020, and by 90 percent in February, compared to the same months last year.
According to Thessaloniki Tourism Organization (TTO) President Voula Patoulidou, arrivals to the Promachonas border point in January increased by over 92 percent (or over 73,000 travelers) compared to January 2019. Furthermore, the strongest increase was recorded at the Evzones border with 63,000 additional arrivals or +114 percent during the same month.
“If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, this is probably the art of adjustment,” Patoulidou said during the 2nd Destination Webinar which was held online on Wednesday, by the Greek National Tourism Organization and the Central Macedonia Region.
Despite, the difficulties, Patoulidou said there were positive signs for the restart of the tourism season, as the GNTO offices in Cyprus, Israel, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Austria – Thessaloniki’s source markets – are confirming a strong interest of travelers to visit Greece.
To attract the interest of potential holidaymakers during the lockdown, TTO continued to promote Thessaloniki through a 15-point marketing plan and digital campaigns targeting road visitors and domestic tourists.
The organization also worked on a new plan to promote the city’s gastronomy tourism and entertainment options.
In addition, TTO collaborated with the Greek National Tourism Organization and Marketing Greece for the launch of the Thessaloniki virtual reality (VR) travel application that offers the chance to travelers to explore some of the city’s historic monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites through the comfort of their home.
Waiting for air travel to resume
Apart from road tourism, Central Macedonia tourism officials and entrepreneurs also expect for air travel to resume.
International flights to Greece will be able to land at Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport as of June 15 – fifteen days earlier than originally planned, as decided by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
This will accelerate the restart of air itineraries and the arrival international travelers to the airport, according to George Vilos, executive director of commercial & business development at Fraport Greece, the company currently managing Makedonia Airport.
“Thessaloniki has always been a high priority for Fraport Greece, due to the airport’s significant volume of operations and the wide network of domestic and international itineraries it serves,” he said.
In 2019, international arrivals to Makedonia Airport increased by 8.6 percent compared to the previous year. Furthermore, during the first two months of 2020, the number of international passengers increased by 14.5 percent or by 60,000, compared to the same period in 2019.