Tourism Minister Kountoura Talks to TNH About Tourism Gains and Prospects

ATHENS – After the opening ceremony of convention of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) being held in Athens this week, Greek Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura spoke about event’s importance to The National Herald.

The Ministry and the Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO) worked hard to bring the convention to Greece. “All these travel agents who are making business to business contacts here in Greece will now be able to present Greece in the best way possible, after taking wonderful tips trips throughout Greece and experiencing hospitality and warm customer service first hand.”

Noting that “Greek tourism has set historic records in each recent year – an increase of six million since 2015,” she expressed appreciation for the efforts of U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, just as he later acknowledged the work of the Ministry. He waxed eloquent about Greece’s natural beauty, cultural treasures – and especially its food – and the country’s historic ties to America.

Greece-U.S. tourism has more than an economic dimension – it strengthens bonds between two important strategic allies, but the Ambassador’s love for Hellas is always visible.

Kountoura noted that for Americans, who come to Greece knowing of their country’s roots there, a visit to Greece not just an extension of their education – “it is a magical experience…All the things they learned about in school now become icons, which they can convey to their friends as genuine ambassadors of Greece.”

“We tell people, especially Greek Americans,” she continued, “come to Greece and bring your friends – show them the roots of Western Civilization… and all of the beautiful islands and mainland locales, not just the popular ones.”

The Ministry’s main messages are: “Greece – A 365-Day Destination” and “Welcome home.”

The welcome mat also extends to investors.

“The past three years there have been many new applications for international investment in the tourism sector – numerous American funds have already invested or are exploring,” Amb. Pyatt said.

Kountoura also invites Greek-Americans to research the fine opportunities that exist.

Pyatt had earlier noted that “American companies are clearly regaining interest here,” pointing out AVIS returning to Greece “with an $81 million U.S. investment, and American hotel operators like Marriot and Wyndham rapidly expanding here.”

After noting the increase in flights to Greece, he said “airport privatizations let by Fraport have brought dramatic improvements in efficiency to… its airports, and Athens airport has just won the Skytrax Airport Award for Best in Southern Europe.

He also said how pleased he is that this year the United States has most honored country status at Sepetember’s Thessaloniki International Fair.

“Greece’s image as a tourist destination has been consistently improving since the crisis,” Pyatt said, and echoed Kountoura’s words that this is the year the people of Greece will feel that they are finally emerging from the crisis. Investor interest stimulated by the Fair will help.

Pyatt also noted that “One thing I hear consistently in my travels is that local mayors would love to have more American visitors – and not just to Mykonos and Santorini,” and Kountoura said her government has the means to help Greek Americans contribute to development everywhere.

She said the GNTO office in New York led by U.S./Canada Director Grigoria Kameterou “has all the information that is needed and they will help anyone who wants to invest in Greek tourism. Her staff will direct them to the right offices and the proper people to work with.”

As she was pulled by staff to her next Sunday meeting, she said, “I want to express my deep thanks to the Greek-American community, which supports our country and our Orthodox Church, which is at our side, and all of you who project the image of our spectacular country to the people of the United States.”


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