ATHENS - The leader of SETE, Greece's largest tourism business association, said he wants to elevate the country’s standing in world rankings and keep bringing record crowds to help offset a crushing economic crisis.
Speaking at the Delphi Economic Forum, Andreas Andreadis said that his agency “has submitted a road map for the Greece of 2021 to all relevant authorities so that the number of visitors to our country can reach 35 million and revenues reach 19 to 20 billion euros," optimistic it could be reached.
But he was peppered with questions about whether that could be undercut by political uncertainty with the government locked in stalled talks with the Eurozone over unfinished reforms attached to a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($91.79 billion) until more austerity measures are imposed, raising fears again the country could be forced out of the financial bloc.
“If Greece returns to the drachma we will have millions of tourists, but Greeks will be (living) in a ghetto, behind a wall that will separate them from the tourist areas, in the logic of the Caribbean. It would be an absolute disaster," he said.
"Our aim is for visitors and locals to live well together,” he said as the government is dealing with additional demands as part of a memorandum it signed with the lenders.
"Whoever thinks the memorandums are to blame for the situation we're in is deluding his or herself,” he said, according to the Athens News Agency.
“The memorandums must be implemented to put things in some kind of order," the head of SETE said, adding that Greeks need to have hope and see growth.
He said that tourism would help other sectors to recover, such as real estate, transport, energy, and agricultural production.
"Greece will not be saved with the third, fourth, or tenth memorandum. It will be saved with a vision," he said. "The vision is for Greece to emerge as the best tourism destination worldwide."
Euromonitor puts Athens at 47th in the world among the most visited cities while Greece overall is still only ninth in Europe alone, behind even Austria and Russia and is 15th in the world with some 22 million visitors, according to Index Mundi.