Alexandros Kachrimanis is the Regional Governor of Epirus, one of Greece’s most important and beautiful – but perhaps least known regions. He and his friends and colleagues are welcoming visitors with open arms. First, he told The National Herald about the COVID situation, noting that “epidemiological indicators from May until today (mid-June) are constantly decreasing in the country and in Epirus. As the temperature rises, we expect even greater improvement of the overall picture and further minimization of cases. Of course, we do not stop being vigilant because, as scientists say, we are still almost in the ‘middle’ of the journey to eradicate the coronavirus.”
The National Herald: Greek-Americans are thrilled to be able to return to Greece this summer, nut they usually go to their family homelands – why should they go to Epirus?
Alexandros Kachrimanis: We are especially happy when we see Greek-Americans returning to their own homelands, or to their families. Our joy is double when we find that Greek-American children are looking for their roots. As Epirotes we first want to see more often our compatriots who live and work in America, to visit their villages, to renovate their homes, to maintain ties with their place.
What we, as a Region, seek is to make the rest of the Greek-Americans who come to Greece every year explore the opportunities offered by Epirus for tourism in many forms and options. In other words, we invite them to add tourist routes to Epirus in their program, to get to know its crystal clear beaches, the beautiful mountain routes, the unique gastronomy, the history, the monuments. We give them, that is, the stimulus for a journey of rest, relaxation, fun, and knowledge.
TNH: While the Pandemic has slowed down many activities, some projects have been moving forward. Tell us about the state of your important infrastructure projects, roads, ports, airports, etc
AK: Epirus is accessible by land, air and sea. Aktio Airport receives hundreds of flights over the year, especially during the summer, charter flights from many countries. Ioannina Airport has been upgraded in the last 3-4 years and has started accepting charter flights from various European countries. If the long period of the pandemic had not taken place, today, we would be talking about a much greater development of Ioannina airport.
The main sea gateway is the port of Igoumenitsa, which has been modernized. In addition to the regular ferry lines to Corfu-Italy, it also welcomes cruise ships. As for the main highways, two major roads have been completed, relatively recently, which have significantly reduced the access times of Epirus from the two major urban centers of Athens (with the Ionian Road) and Thessaloniki (with the Egnatia Road).
TNH: We know these are important for the region – why are they important for tourists and Greek-Americans?
AK: As I mentioned above, with the two roads, the access times of Epirus from Athens and Thessaloniki, but also of the intermediate cities, have been significantly reduced. At the same time, these two axes offer great safety for those who choose to drive. Epirus after the completion of these two roads, saw an increase in visitors, which in fact spread to the four regional units.
This is an advantage for our region, it helps transport, improves the competitiveness of our products, but, above all, it greatly facilitates the tourists who want to visit it. This is especially true for Greek-American tourists/visitors who have the opportunity in a very short time to visit, live, and get to know a region of Greece that they may have heard a lot about, but until recently had difficulty accessing. The same applies to the use of air transport and the port of Igoumenitsa, for those who arrive in Greece via Italy.
TNH: What is your vision for private and government projects in Epiros, especially in the tourism sector?
AK: I will not talk about a vision, but about a plan, which we have implemented and which we serve, with a dual goal: On the one hand to improve our infrastructure for the permanent residents and their activities, and on the other hand to use them for our tourism. This goal is served by the construction of certain highways that lead to the already large roads. These are the connections with the Greek-Albanian border, the coastal road Preveza-Igoumenitsa, the bypass of Ancient Nikopolis and the road from Ionia Odos to Zefyros Preveza, which then leads to the coast.
These are projects that are not viable to be constructed by attracting private capital, which is why resources are sought through European co-financed programs, as has already been done with the bypass of Ancient Nikopolis. In the same way, projects are promoted for the modernization and promotion of the thermal baths of Epirus, for the diving parks, the marinas, etc.
The private sector is basically developing the region through the construction of new hotel units – accommodations and their accompanying projects – and I can say that in Epirus, thanks to the units that have either been built in recent years or have been reconstructed, the level of services provided in tourism has risen substantially.
TNH: Tell us about the latest private investments and developments, and future and possible investments.
AK: Private investment in recent years has focused mainly on tourism and Renewable Energy. We also see movement with investments in small processing plants. The Region of Epirus is currently running an ambitious initiative that concerns the creation/construction of a High Technology and Research Park, in order to house world-wide software companies etc. which have already established branches in the city of Ioannina, while the opportunity will be given to develop new ones, attracting funds from inside and outside the country.
A second – separate – initiative that is underway is the development of Innovation Centers, through which activities of the primary sector will be strengthened, as well as the cultivation and utilization of aromatic and medicine plants that are a natural advantage – but not exploited – of Epirus.
These are sectors in which we invite our fellow entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs living in America to invest in, and why not in other sectors too. He assure them that they will have the Epirus regional government by their side.