ΑΤΗΕΝS – On a path to bust records for foreign visitors and revenues – even during the waning COVID-19 pandemic – Greece marked World Tourism Day, celebrating its success but saying the business would need rethinking to keep people coming, reaching out for year-round arrivals.
Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias told GTP Headlines that, “with the season starting earlier than ever, the summer going great and travel flows still particularly high in September, we are working with optimism even for the off season period.”
Tourism is the country’s biggest money maker, bringing in as much as 20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 212.11 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and this year was propelled by 500,000 American visitors and hordes from around the world.
“These people are the pillars of tourism and the image of our country abroad … World Tourism Day is dedicated to them not only this year, but every year because without them, there can be no tourism,” said Kikilias.
Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) President, Angela Gerekou, and the Secretary-General, Dimitris Fragakis, said however that it’s time to “re-think, re-define, and regenerate” tourism.
Fragakis said Greece’s tourism industry must face its weaknesses and become innovative and effective to sustain itself and keep people coming and not make 2022 just a flash in the pan year.
“Transitioning to sustainability, emphasizing the digitization of services, investing in the authenticity of the tourist experience, and highlighting education and skills are big challenges for the future,” he said of the need.
Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios, said his industry is facing some new major challenges, especially the high cost of energy he said will “force us to change our perspective and turn to a more sustainable model, readjusting our strategic targeting for the tourism of the next day.”
The Greek Confederation of Tourist Accommodation Enterprises (SETKE) said while the sector is bouncing back after two years of lockdowns and slowdowns and stalled international air travel, it shouldn’t take it for granted.
“This recovery should not be a cause for complacency, which is why it is necessary to have a long-term tourism development plan and not just for the upcoming tourist season,” the confederation said.
Tourism in Greece is on a path to bust through the 2019 record levels even during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and some 77 percent of Greeks in a survey praised the efforts to lure them.
A Metron Analysis poll showed most Greeks believe tourism is the sector where Greece’s New Democracy government is doing its best, with estimates it could bring in more than 20 billion euros ($19.52 billion) in 2022.
Kikilias lauded the tourism sector’s professionals and workers as people returned in huge numbers with the comeback of international air travel and essentially the end of health measures.
He told Mega TV that the effort to keep people coming in the autumn and into the winter with tourism other than sun, sand, beaches, and summer will continue and is showing signs of paying off so far.
He said that more airlines are lining up for direct flights and he has gotten encouraging messages from the heads of airlines during his recent trips to Stockholm, Vienna, Berlin, and Paris.
“Lufthansa Group – including Swiss, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings – spoke of increasing flights to Greece by 30 percent in 2023. Air France and Transavia in France spoke of maintaining the number of airline seats and further increasing by 10 percent for next season. Austrian Airlines and SAS in Austria told us the same thing, while U.S. airlines have requested to have additional slots,” he said, the site reported.