Western Greece is known for its variety of natural and historical sites, from Greece’s central mountains to the cost of the Ionian Sea. Nektarios Farmakis, the Regional Governor of Western Greece, shared some of his thoughts about the region and its tourism appeal and plans with The National Herald.
The National Herald: What are some of the most popular locations and destinations in the area?
Nektarios Farmakis: The list is really long…however, I would like to point out that the new regional government has adopted the slogan "The land of the flame" for Western Greece, believing that one of the most important features of the region is the land of Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, a worldwide symbol of peace and humanity, but it also refers to the areas of Kalavrita and Messolonghi, which sparked and played key roles during the Revolution of 1821 which led to Greece’s independence from Ottoman rule. In other words, Western Greece is a historical ‘bridge’ between ancient and modern Greek history. It is an area that ‘narrates’ the history of Hellenism and what it passed on to the Western world over the centuries. So, while emphasizing this “journey of the flame" of Hellenism over the centuries, I must also mention that Patras can also be transformed into a place of global Christian tourism as the ‘seat’ of the Apostle Andrew. I also think that Ilia has some of the best beaches in Greece, the west coast of Etoloakarnania (Astakos, Paleros, etc.), which in combination with the many islands of the Ionian region form a beautiful complex of recreation and sensual stimulation.
Nature lovers, I believe, will want to discover the unique lagoon of Messolonghi and the largest lake in Greece, Trichonida. I could say a lot more, but it would take a lot of pages!
TNH: How do you compare summer and winter tourism in the region?
NF: We now say that Western Greece is a 12-month visitors’ area. This is because it has landmarks and destinations that do not demand visiting during a specific season, such as the archeological site of Ancient Olympia, its religious monuments such as the tomb and the cross of St. Andrew in Patras, or the unique settlements of Strofilia and Vouraikos. However, it is true that as in all of Greece, the largest number of visitors come during the summer months, when tourists can enjoy the beaches of Achaia, Ilia, and Etoloakarnania, while also taking sightseeing tours at other places of interest.
Winter tourism in our area is located mainly in Kalavrita and the ski resort located there, as well as in some picturesque areas of exceptional beauty, mountainous and semi-mountainous places such as Foloi in Ilia and mountainous Nafpaktia in Etoloakarnania.
So, we encourage our visitors not to choose to come only during the summer. The new tourism promotion and development strategy that we have adopted as a region perceives tourism as a holistic experience that includes much more than summer vacations. Our goal is to also promote special forms of tourism such as religious pilgrimages, healing centers, conferences, etc. but also to highlight new tourist centers.
TNH: What is missing now from Greece's tourism strategy?
NF: Speaking of the country as a whole, we all probably agree that what is largely missing is the development of investments that will attract high-level tourism and establish the country as a high-end destination. The multi-year economic crisis in the country may have created many problems, but Greece as a destination has never lost its glory. And I must add regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Greece, as a country that has successfully handled the disease, has every opportunity to capitalize on the promotion of additional benefits derived from being a destination of quality and safety. That is why new investments must be accelerated in the tourism industry nationally and a new framework for promotion must be created, with intense extroversion and confidence. We are also aiming in this direction in our own region.
TNH: Do the citizens of Western Greece want more tourists?
NF: Of course they want to. With the difference that for the citizens of Western Greece, tourism is not an ‘industry’ far from the anthropocentric dimensions of life. For the average citizen of our area, the visitor is someone who honors us with his presence, someone who wants to be with us and get to know us better. That's why we feel we need to provide him with the best, so that he can be the best ‘advertisement’ for this place. This anthropocentric approach to tourism is something we want to maintain and enhance with modern and quality investment, but also in perfect harmony with the traditions and customs of our place. That is why, as I mentioned above, in our perception, tourism is a holistic experience.