The tourism sector will continue to be a driving force of the Greek economy by taking advantage of the valuable knowhow it gathered after opening up to tourists during the coronavirus pandemic, said Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis this week.
In an interview to the Athens News Agency (ANA-MPA), Theoharis referred to the 6 million tourists Greece welcomed in 2020 and to the 4 billion euros in tourism revenue collected, which he described as a “true feat”.
“Tourism has never ceased to be a protagonist in the development of the country,” he said.
“All our guests returned to their homeland in total safety and health,” said Theoharis, adding that these travelers now serve as Greece’s greatest ambassadors in Covid-19 times.
“We survived and became a point of reference in the midst of the pandemic,” he said, thanks to Greece’s tourism professionals who “demonstrated responsibility, professionalism, consistency in the implementation of scientific guidelines and, above all, a deep and genuine concern for their fellow human beings”.
He went on to add that Greece gained significant and long-term benefits despite the difficulties and underlined that at the same time won over the confidence and trust of the international community.
Looking ahead, Theoharis said “tackling the health crisis, which has already begun with the start of vaccinations, will mark the beginning of a tourism recovery“.
In the meantime, the Greek tourism ministry is already implementing its strategic plan which focuses on completing key infrastructure projects that will facilitate tourism as well as on upgrading the tourism product.
In close cooperation with relevant ministries, the tourism ministry has set the following goals for the year ahead: addressing the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, promoting sustainable tourism development, diversifying the tourism product and establishing Greece as a 12-month destination, providing added value through upskilling of the work force, promoting the Greek tourism brand internationally, and developing special forms of tourism.
At the same time, the minister referred to revisions in laws covering destination management marketing organizations, tourism training and education, marinas and ports, as well as on spa and thermal spring operations.
He also underlined the importance of ensuring “growth that will reward the efforts of people who have invested in the industry. They have invested not only materials, but also mental and spiritual capital”.
Additionally, Theoharis said a key pillar of the government’s plan is through strategic collaborations with global tourism market stakeholders as well as with far-reaching communication campaigns to promote Greece to new markets.
Currently, Theoharis said the focus is on supporting tourism sector professionals and businesses through emergency financial aid, boosting domestic tourism, and later on infrastructure.
Summing up, Theoharis admits that 2021 will be a tough year particularly in terms of competition in the Mediterranean and in Southern Europe. He is keeping a reserved stance in the first months through to spring since “people are still afraid to travel”.
Meanwhile, based on research, the development of the pandemic, and the effectiveness of vaccination, the government is reportedly aiming for 8 billion euros in revenues in 2021 generated from inbound tourism in an attempt to salvage 40 percent of 2019 revenues.