Aviation sector takes off on tourism diversification and new routes to the Middle East

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Dimitris Gerogiannis
Dimitris Gerogiannis

With flights from around the world arriving at its airports on a daily basis, Greece’s aviation industry is flying high, as is the country’s flag carrier, Aegean Airlines

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Thousands of international travellers arrive at Greece's airport daily via a broad range of leading airlines
Thousands of international travellers arrive at Greece's airport daily via a broad range of leading airlines

Published: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:36 AM

Last updated: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:39 AM

Branded a ‘safe destination’ in the post-pandemic era of travel thanks to its stringent health measures and sanitary controls, tens of millions of tourists and over €18 billion in revenue was generated by the sec- tor in a record-breaking 2022.

Greece has made huge strides in diversifying its tourism industry, cultivating old destinations and building up new ones, with a goal to defeat seasonality outside of Athens. Well-received advertising and marketing campaigns placed in international media and based on campaigns such as ‘Greekend’ and ‘Greece does have a winter’ have moved the spotlight to areas of the mainland, as well as other lesser-known corners of the country.

“The campaigns have been a great success,” states a delighted Kikilias. “A key factor in upgrading our product was investments from abroad, including from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US. All the big brands are now here, but this is not random, if all the major tourism multi-nationals want to invest in Greece and have opened numerous high-class hotels and condos — six stars, even seven stars — then this is proof of the uniqueness of this country.

“Plus of course, these big multinational companies bring with them their tour operators, the airline companies, digital booking, and their own brand in the touristic world, which means more travellers, tourists and high-end visitors as well, so this has a multiplying effect in the country, not only in the field of tourism; Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to invest in the fields of energy and real estate.”

Kikilias is quick to praise the hard work of colleagues in the administration, but especially Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who has travelled many times to the Middle East to foster relationships and encourage investments in various fields.

This progress can be seen in the increase in number and frequency of new and existing airline routes to and from Greece, with daily direct flights to the capital from major American cities and a growing number of carriers from the Middle East offering routes for leisure and business travellers. “Emirates is a success story for Greece and for the company, since for the last few years, Emirates has been flying Newark-Athens-Dubai, in what may have been the company’s most successful route, and a great success for us,” he notes. “This has created a pull factor among American airline carriers to serve Greece.

“Americans are high spenders, and with the favourable value of the euro against the dollar, they can spend more, and this has boosted the capital and the Attica region and our top-branded islands, but also alternative destinations. So, our strategy is to link the Gulf and the countries of the Middle East and Asia with the other side of the Atlantic, and for the centre of the equation to be Athens, Thessaloniki and Greece.”

Due to celebrate its silver anniversary in 2024, Aegean Airlines is Greece’s largest airline, proudly offering full service, premium quality, short and medium haul services. The dynamic company flies to nearly 140 destinations (29 domestic and 109 international) and operates a young fleet of air-craft, including the latest models. A leading choice for vacationers and business travellers, Aegean Airlines was recently voted — for the 11th year running — the Best Regional Airline in Europe at the prestigious World Airline Awards (WAA). The strong performance also saw in scoop second place in the overall World’s Best Regional

Airline section of the WAAs.

“We have to compete against 60-70 airlines that fly in and out of Greece,” says Aegean Airlines CEO, Dimitris Gerogiannis. “We want to be visibly different in the quality of service of website competitors. To achieve our two main goals — quality of service differentiation and very high efficiency and good productivity — we keep investing in our key assets.

“The real asset in an airline is not the aircraft, but its people. This is what makes the difference. For the past 24 years, we have been continuously investing in the development and upskilling of our employees. Our people are our main focus and will remain so because this is what will deliver the competitive advantage.

“Our investment in new technology to improve service and efficiency of the organisation will continue, as will fresh investment in hiring new staff and upskilling our existing workers for that technology."

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