Last week, Greek Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura visited Chicago. She encouraged people to visit Greece any time of the year.
Minister Elena Kountoura: Visit Greece all year long
Greek Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura was in Chicago last week, accompanied by representatives of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO). The GNTO’s North American campaign to promote Greek tourism included visits to several cities in Canada and the United States. Mrs. Kountoura spoke of the rapid growth in Greek tourism. She highlighted several successful initiatives and collaborations, implemented by the GNTO.
Tourism on the rise
Tourism is a top commodity in Greece, contributing more than 20% to Greece’s GDP, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, (SETA). Noting the impressive number of 26 million tourists in 2015, Minister Kountoura stated that the higher projections of nearly 30 million tourists for 2017, make Greece a global destination for all seasons. She credits this industry growth to the collective effort and commitment to development and infrastructure projects, by the Greek government, its agencies, and investors.
“Visit Greece” campaign
The strategic and comprehensive plan for the “Visit Greece” campaign covers the areas of transportation, marketing, accommodations, new markets, and education. The goal is to improve access to Greece and ensure memorable experiences that beckon repeat visits.
The Greek National Tourism Organization in tandem with the Greek Tourist agencies have created thematic tour packages that appeal to a broad spectrum of visitors who are visiting for business, pleasure, cultural, academic, or educational pursuits. Tourists also have the option of customizing their itineraries and experiences. Working with a tour operator will save one time, expense — and buyer’s remorse — since they are specialists in assisting with last minute schedule changes and other travel issues that may arise. Cruise packages are also being expanded by theme and destinations.
At a reception hosted by the Consulate of Greece in Chicago, Mrs. Kountoura mentioned the campaign’s challenges and its effective communication strategy:
“We didn’t have much in terms of budget, so we reached out to all the bloggers — blogs that were about travel in Greece, Greek food, and the like. We worked with so many to get the word out about Greece. These were successful partnerships that helped us to expand our reach and bring in more tourists. We’re doing many creative things, to bring more people to visit Greece. We want to showcase our beautiful country as much as we can.”
Flights to Greece
Travel from Great Britain to Greece has improved, with British Airways offering more direct daily flights. Currently, there are only limited direct flights from the United States to Greece — mostly seasonal, from New York City and Philadelphia. However, Chicago, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles offer commercial flights with one stopover abroad. To expand Greece’s global appeal, flights from other countries are also being discussed. Chicagoans have been asking for direct-flight service to Greece for a long time. Hopefully, the Visit Greece campaign will make this a reality.
Visit Greece: adventure awaits
For the adventurous traveler who seeks new challenges, Greece offers skiing, spelunking, river rapids rafting, hang-gliding, scuba diving, windsurfing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and sailing, in addition to jet skiing and parasailing. There are water parks that kids will love. For the more leisure-inclined visitor, there are miles and miles of pristine beaches, (two that are ranked among the top ten beaches in Europe by Conde Nast). The avid golfer will find immaculately kept greens at 8 golf courses.
Thematic tour packages are all-inclusive and have been designed to capitalize on Greece’s history, geographic location, and climate; and cater to romance, culture, activities, meetings, gastronomy, touring, leisure, wellness, and religion.
Visit Greece: winter fun
The influx of tourists throughout the year, has created a tourist-season shift, extending tourism into January. According to Mrs. Kountoura, Greece’s winter tourism in 2015, reached an all time high. Ski enthusiasts discovered their perfect powder, bargain-hunters purchased their (now) affordable luxuries, and holiday tourists found their inner joy. Winter tourists are able to visit the ancient ruins and 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites in comfort, without queues.
Visit Greece: spa time
Well-being packages offer accommodations at boutique hotels with spas that will exceed your pampering expectations. However, Greece’s natural mineral and thermal spas can also be part of any travel package, perhaps after hiking the Dikteon Cave in Crete.
Visit Greece: student focus
Mrs. Kountoura sees the educational component as an important part of attracting students of Greek heritage and PhilHellenes. Although still in the planning process, both public and private institutions of higher learning are prospects for this collaboration. She hopes to see more students spending some time in Greece, where they will enrich and expand their education. Those of us who have traveled to Greece have experienced that which is Greek and Greece. Perhaps that is why we are always ready for a return visit.
So much more
Now that the newly constructed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece, there is one more reason to visit Greece — and SOON – throughout the year. Additional developments are in progress as global businesses discover Greece. For example, China has filmed several documentaries in Greece. Mrs. Kountoura asks that we join the Visit Greece campaign, in our conversations and on social media. Help support Greece by sharing your experiences. Let your friends and acquaintances know that Greece is for everyone at anytime of the year.
She has two adult sons who are pursuing their passions. Maria enjoys traveling with the purpose of interacting with the locals and learning more about the people and their rich heritage, be it in the U.S. or abroad.
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