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Politics

Mitsotakis Says His Aim: Making Greece’s World Best Tourist Destination

ATHENS – A full-speed ahead tourism push even at the cost of popular islands buckling under too many visitors and their infrastructure strained hasn’t deterred Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wanting more of them, and businesses too.

He told European Travel Commission President Luis Araujo at a forum on European tourism his goal is making Greece “the best tourist destination in the world in a 10-year period,” said Naftemporiki, over many islanders concerns.

https://www.naftemporiki.gr/english/1635961/mitsotakis-aims-to-render-greece-the-best-tourist-destination-in-the-world/

They are upset that public beaches have been further taken over by businesses and luxury resorts in violation of the Greek Constitution which stipulates they are public, but many users are blocked from reaching them.

A 2023 crackdown on some businesses encroaching on their unlawful leases, granting them 50 percent of beaches for paid umbrellas and sunbed lounges didn’t touch 5-Star resorts of the type the government favors, seeking big spenders.

Tourism in 2023 saw more than 30 million arrivals – three times the country’s population, and brought in more than 20 billion euros ($21.71 billion,) the government showing no sign of slacking off reaching out for more despite the crunch put on islands.

Greek tourism businesses, especially restaurants and hotels, lost staff during the COVID-19 pandemic that locked them down, leading employees in the sector to look for work elsewhere, many returning when health restrictions were lifted.

Mitsotakis said one answer is raising wages for tourism workers, with waiters paid 7 euros ($7.60) per hour, below the new minimum wage of 10.58 euros ($11.49) and some restaurant owners notorious for evading taxes and gouging customers.

Greece tourism wasn’t set back in 2023 by record heat waves, nor deadly floods nor fires that saw visitors to the island of Rhodes fleeing for their lives when blazes struck and complaining they were largely left on their own.

The government promised those whose vacations were cut short by the fires on the island a free week’s holiday this year in a bid to keep people coming, although nothing deterred others who came in record numbers all year.

There’s worry that climate change and heat could keep people away but there’s not been any report on early bookings to see how much tourism will be affected and Mitsotakis noting how much residents on Rhodes helped foreigners during the fires.

“Essentially, they used this crisis as an opportunity, more or less, to change the image of Rhodes to that of a resilient island. I consider that this is a very, very important issue,” Mitsotakis said after the Tourism Minister last year downplayed the fires there.

He outlined the government’s measures in response to climate change, the paper said, as he added, “The Mediterranean as a whole is a hotspot for climate change,” which would bring a greater number of fires, floods and extreme phenomena.

“We know, of course, that these natural disasters will occur with ever greater frequency, which means that we must reinforce the civil protection mechanism as a whole. As a country, we are investing more than two billion euros on civil protection,” he said, stressing that the top priority was protecting human lives.

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