Op-Ed: ‘Tourism is the locomotive of the Greek economy’ – Vassilis Kikilias
For the last three years the planet has been up against unprecedented crises: a pandemic, a war in the heart of Europe, intense inflationary pressures, energy crisis. With all this in mind, the Greek Tourism Ministry is working every day aiming for our tourism industry, which contributes 1 in 4 euros to the Greek economy, to see a successful year.
We are already pleased to see a big increase in tourist flows since the spring – the agreements we made with major airlines in the United States will result to 500,000 high-spending American travelers arriving on direct flights to the Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens; cruise arrivals are showing an increase of 250 percent at the port of Thessaloniki and 130 percent at Piraeus; and arrivals to our islands are giving us room for optimism that our effort are bearing fruit.
At the same time, following my official visits and the meetings I had with my counterparts and leading tour operators, the messages coming from the Balkan countries are very positive. These markets are expected to compensate for any losses we may have from the markets of Russia and Ukraine due to the war.
Indicatively, Greece this year is the number 1 destination for Romanians in road tourism, while 50 percent of Serbian travelers have chosen our country as a holiday destination. At the same time, we are opening up to the very large market of India. This year, we are investing in alternative destinations in all areas of Greece with the aim of spreading our tourism product throughout the country to the benefit of businesses, including medium-sized and family-owned.
We are shining the spotlight on beautiful destinations, which until now were almost unknown to travelers, and our focus, in addition to financially supporting thousands of families and contributing to the upgrading of Greek tourism, also contributes significantly to the decongestion of destinations that have a very strong brand, such as Mykonos and Santorini, islands for which we are also implementing sustainable tourism actions based on relevant studies. We have launched similar interventions for other islands that have yet to see problems, in order to be prepared. In this context, we are creating a National Observatory for Sustainable Tourism Development. We also reached a very important agreement with Google to accelerate the green and sustainable development of small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMEs) in Greece with training programs for professionals and also to provide funding of $1 million to support organizations that help social enterprises focusing on sustainability and ecotourism.
Tourism is undoubtedly the “locomotive” of the Greek economy, so our primary goal is to support the average Greek family. This is the cornerstone of the policy we are carrying out, in which we could not but include the strengthening of our social tourism program addressed to low-income Greeks. With the approval of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, we have increased the budget for our “Tourism for All” holiday subsidy program by 10 million euros so that 200,000 fellow citizens of vulnerable groups have the opportunity to take a vacation and the much-needed break they deserve from the difficulties of everyday life.
After all, our government these past three years has proved that we are by the side of our vulnerable fellow citizens and support them in every way.
Minister of Tourism
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