Northern Greece has a leading role in this year’s opening of the country’s tourism, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said following his official visit to Thessaloniki on Friday.
While in the Greece’s second largest city, Minister Theoharis met with local and regional bodies and discussed ways to boost tourism development in the area’s destinations, considering that Northern Greece is the country’s gateway for land arrivals from the Balkans.
Demand is high for Northern Greece
Speaking with the regional governor for Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the tourism minister said that Russians and travelers from the Balkan countries are showing a high interest for holidays in Northern Greece this year.
“This is why I started my international visits for this year’s tourism season from the countries that traditionally supply the region with tourists: Romania, Serbia, Poland and Russia,” the minister said.
During the meeting, Theoharis applauded the governor for his efforts to boost Central Macedonia as an international destination.
“With his initiatives and close cooperation with the tourism ministry, he has managed to make Central Macedonia one of the main tourism destinations of the country,” he said.
Road tourism is essential
On his part, Tzitzikostas said that tourism is a key development pillar of the local economy and focused on the importance of road tourism to increase tourism activity in Macedonia in 2021.
“This year, road tourism is the key for tourism to go well in the region overall and this is why from the very beginning I have requested for the government to ascertain that the cross-border stations will function properly,” he said.
More specifically, Tzitzikostas has requested for Northern Greece’s border stations to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week; to have a special lane for visitors that are vaccinated, so that those with Digital COVID Certificates from July 1 onwards can pass through smoothly; and to increase the staff of the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) for Covid testing of road travelers when needed.
“For the last three years Central Macedonia is first in the number of tourist arrivals among all the regions of Greece. This ‘momentum’ should not be lost,” he added.
Thessaloniki to apply for ‘City of Gastronomy’ title
The minister later met with Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas and was informed on the city’s plans to apply to become a member of UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy project, which is part of the organization’s wider Creative Cities Network.
“Tourism is important for Thessaloniki and Thessaloniki is important for tourism. Thessaloniki rightly claims the title of a city of gastronomy,” Theoharis said.
Launched in 2004, UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network organizes member cities into seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music.
Moreover, Theoharis said the ministry will continue its cooperation with the Municipality of Thessaloniki on multiple levels with a focus on extending this year’s season and working together on plans for 2022.
On his part, Mayor Zervas highlighted the importance of making improvements in the city to better serve tourists with disabilities.
“Interventions must proceed so that Greece is an ideal accessible and disability-friendly travel destination,” the mayor said.
While in Thessaloniki, Theoharis also met with the Deputy Minister of Interior Responsible for Macedonia – Thrace, Stavros Kalafatis, and representatives of tourism organizations from Thessaloniki and the wider region of Macedonia.
“We are aware that we have a very difficult year ahead of us, but we are in a much better position compared to last year because the ‘brand’ of our country has been strengthened,” the minister told tourism professionals while reminding that Greece was awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) for its efforts in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of tourism.
He highlighted that checks at land border entry points are carried out in complete coordination with EODY, the Ministry of Civil Protection and the General Secretariat of Civil Protection.
“Greece is a safe tourism destination,” Theoharis said.