Correcting entrenched policies that have led to the misuse or disuse of Greece’s thermal springs in order to develop these into a high-value tourism product is among the ministry’s key priorities for the year ahead, said Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias.
In a recent interview to Greek newspaper Eleftheros Typos, Kikilias admitted that fragmented ownership and unclear concession deals had hindered potential growth for a product that has such great potential and can contribute not only to tourism revenue for local communities but also to the extension of the tourism season.
“Our main goal is the development of thermal – spa tourism or wellness tourism, which will attract new visitors, enhance the sustainable management of thermal springs, contribute to the creation of added value to GDP and extroversion,” he said.
To achieve this, Kikilias informed that Greece had tabled legislation that foresees the creation of the “Thermal Springs of Greece SA” company, which will design, oversee and manage the development of the country’s wellness tourism product while ensuring revenue stays locally.
With secured funding from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience tool, the company will be able to manage the country’s thermal springs in cases where municipalities cannot and distribute the revenues to local communities, he added.
“We are not taking away property from municipalities. The ultimate goal is to achieve holistic and sustainable tourism development, activate private investment funds and to support the achievement of regional development goals,” the tourism minister said.
In the same direction, Kikilias said the ministry was also planning on formulating a national strategy for the development of tourist ports and marinas and putting it into action through the use of RRF funding. The minister referred to the new marina project on the remote island of Symi, as an example of the country’s maritime tourism development goals.
Kikilias admitted that of the country’s 168 tourist ports, only 37 are currently in operation costing Greece significant revenues each year which instead go to rival countries such as Croatia, Turkey and Italy.
“We now have a very important tool in our hands. A very significant part of RFF resources is set to be used for the creation of new or the upgrade of existing marinas. I am optimistic that in the coming years, maritime tourism will be one of the most dynamically developing tourism products in the country,” he said.