An Interview with Nektarios Farmakis, Regional Governor of Western Greece

Regional Governor of Western Greece Nektarios Farmakis spoke with The National Herald about tourism in the beautiful and varied region many Greek-Americans call ‘the Homeland’.

TNH: What is the Region’s current strategy for the development and promotion of tourism in Western Greece and how does it align with the wider regional development goals?

Nektarios Farmakis: In recent years, we have developed a completely new approach to the way we promote our Region, so that it meets both the main goals we have set, as well as the international trends that dominate the tourism market. Through the development of synergies with local agencies that are directly or indirectly involved in tourism, our strategy aims to highlight the unique advantages of Western Greece with a focus on the international brand of Ancient Olympia and presentation of all those possibilities that push to mitigate seasonality. In other words, Western Greece is not only presented as a place with wonderful beaches for the summer season, but as a place of history and culture, as a place that offers a variety of activities and many forms of tourism (spas, sightseeing, sports, conferences, etc.). Increasing our share in tourism in connection with the strengthening of extroversion is for us not only a means of strengthening local income, but also an all-round highlighting of the advantages of the region, attracting human resources and developing further collaborations that strengthen the economic and social development of the area.

TNH: How does the Region work to improve infrastructure and accessibility to the main tourist destinations in Western Greece?

NF: The Region of Western Greece now has more modern road infrastructure than in the past, connecting it to Athens and also via the north-west axis to Ioannina. Recently, another modern axis was added, the Amvrakia Road, which facilitates movement between the western coasts of Epirus and Aitoloakarnania, which offers new possibilities for development at the airport of Aktion and is, for our country, the first vertical axis of the Ionian Road.

Also, in addition to the airport of Akti, Western Greece also has the airport of Araxos, which shows continuous upward trends, and, of course, the very important port of Patras, which is Greece’s ‘gateway’ to Western Europe. Also, in the field of port infrastructure, the port of Katakolo is one of the most important cruise ports in Greece.

At the same time, as a Regional Authority we have launched dozens of interventions to improve and upgrade the roads of Western Greece and improve the speed and safety of movement, as well as projects to strengthen our port infrastructure.

Regional Governor of Western Greece Nektarios Farmakis

We are well aware that a prerequisite for any form of development is accessibility. And we are accelerating in the race so that Western Greece will be transformed into an easily accessible region, an endeavor  that helps to highlight all its comparative advantages.

TNH: In the context of tourism development, how does the Region balance the promotion of tourism with the preservation of its cultural and natural heritage? Are there specific initiatives to protect them?

NF: Western Greece tells the story of Hellenism over the past 3,000 years. That is why our tourism campaign is called ‘Olympian Land’. The three great and existing resources we have and in which we systematically invest are the primary sector, culture, and tourism. We are therefore making a great effort, with many initiatives, to highlight the historical and cultural wealth of Western Greece, i.e. the land that the first Olympians trod, the land that St. Andrew the ‘Protocletos’ (‘First-Called’) of the Apostles trod, the land that heroes and martyrs of freedom trod, of the land that raised a Patrokosmas (St. Kosmas the Aetolian) and a Palamas.

Also, through tourism promotion, we highlight the natural areas of unique beauty that the region has and which we protect as the apple of our eye, such as the lagoons of Missolonghi, Kaiafas, and Kotychi, the gorge of Vouraikos, the forest of Foloi, etc. Western Greece is a ‘green’ destination and this is something we highlight with great intensity.

TNH: How does the Region involve local communities in tourism planning and decisions to ensure that the benefits of tourism are equitably distributed?

NF: Tourism for us is a complete travel experience. In Western Greece, we try to highlight places, routes and experiences that are not completely connected with summer tourism. As I already mentioned, we do not only promote the beaches and seaside resorts of Western Greece, but also the mountainous areas, such as Kalavryta, Vouraikos, mountainous Nafpaktia, the area of Thermo – the unique habitats and any other area that really it is worth visiting for a complete travel experience.

We seek to distribute fairly the benefits of tourism with the development of special and alternative forms of tourism, such as ‘citybreak’ tourism that can be developed in the large commercial and transport center of Patras, conference tourism thanks to the large academic and research institutions we have, pilgrimage tourism due to the many important religious monuments in the area and, of course, ecotourism.

TNH: What cooperative efforts are being made with private companies, national tourism organizations, and international partners for the effective promotion of Western Greece as a desirable tourist destination? How does the region differentiate itself in a competitive tourism landscape?

NF: Through the formation of a single local business consciousness, but also through national and international business partnerships, we believe that the advantages of the Region of Western Greece as a destination can be connected creatively and productively, in order to mitigate social and economic inequalities within the region and to support both the human capital of our country as well as the most important economic, cultural, and social infrastructure of the region. In order to achieve the above, and as the Region of Western Greece is not a mass tourism destination, our efforts are aimed at creating incentives for potential visitors and investors in the area, and they are linked to alternative as well as more traditional forms of tourism.

Our close collaboration with national tourism organizations, such as the Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organization, is continuous and dynamic as it aims to exchange know-how, theoretical toolkits, and best practices aimed at consolidating and enhancing the Olympic Land as an attractive and evolving destination. Furthermore, our participation in national and European projects contributes to the strengthening of intra-regional cohesion, the creation of jobs, economic and social development, and, of course, to the improvement and diffusion of the offered tourist product.

Regarding the synergies of the Region of Western Greece with the private sector, I mention the innovative initiative of the ‘Greek Traditional Breakfast of the Region of Western Greece’ which aspires to highlight the culinary tradition, the products, and identity of our region, as well as the local catering and accommodation businesses. In addition, I mention our important initiative regarding the innovative digital tool: training.olympianland.gr for the creation of an educational website for tourism through the ongoing training of executives and the human resources of Western Greece.

TNH: What would you say to Greeks living abroad who are not from Western Greece and do not know the area well to convince them to spend their holidays there?

NF: That visiting the place where the Olympic Games were born, the place where the spark of the revolution of 1821 was lit, the place where Hellenism ‘breathes’ for 3,000 years, should be experienced by everyone during their lifetime. We are waiting for everyone to come and see and admire up close the unique ‘property’ left to us by the centuries and our ancestors, but also by nature itself. At any time of the year, the only thing certain is that Western Greece has a lot to show and is a special experience, far from the oversaturated tourist areas that view the visitor as a ‘customer’. For us, the visitor is our guest!


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