Its roots stretch back millennia, but the modern country is focused on the future

 

Dominating the capital’s skyline, the Parthenon and the Acropolis represent thousands of years of civilization
Dominating the capital’s skyline, the Parthenon and the Acropolis represent thousands of years of civilization

Greece has been a well-established vacation destination for sun-seekers for decades and is breaking records as it diversifies its incredible tourism offering

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Vassilis Kikilias, Minister of Tourism
Vassilis Kikilias, Minister of Tourism

Published: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:46 AM

Last updated: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:50 AM

The importance of tourism and its myriad of activities on the health, well-being and overall performance of the Greek economy cannot be overstated, with the huge, year-round industry generating around a quarter of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing over one million workers during the peak summer season. Tens of millions of visitors vacation in the Mediterranean hotspot each year, enjoying its breathtaking tapestry of historical treasures — particularly the stunning Acropolis and Pantheon in Athens — and gorgeous scenery, complemented by a favourable climate and amazing cuisine and hospitality. As a pillar of the Greek economy, the lucrative tourism sector is at the heart of government policy and official data shows the industry has re- bounded rapidly and sustainably from the disruption triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments
Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments
Kostas Achillea Karamanlis, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport
Kostas Achillea Karamanlis, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport

As Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, has his finger on the pulse of all the latest industry developments and is exceptionally upbeat about the sector’s prospects given its outstanding performance in 2022 and strong start to 2023. “First of all, this is a major industry in Greece,” he states. “Tourism is 25 per cent of our GDP, that’s one out of every four euros of the Greek economy. It also supports the primary sector of agriculture; mainly fruit, vegetables and what we produce from our land that is exported, or sold to local hotels and restaurants. “The commercial world is closely tied to tourism and, of course, construction, since eight out of 10 new investments in Greece are touristic investments, such as condos and hotels. After that, there are the infrastructures to enable people to get there. We’ve got 224 inhabited islands and the beautiful mainland with its unbeatable scenery, it’s a unique experience to visit Greece. Since we are a safe destination, it’s a multiple gain for us post-pandemic, the ministry and the touristic sector, because travellers and tourists from all over the world are opting for Greece.”


To support the ongoing diversification of the excellent product and promotion of regional-based destinations rather than just Athens and traditionally popular islands, the forward-thinking government has prioritised relevant major infrastructural developments, including the upscaling of Greece’s largest marina, the Alimos Marina, as well as Crete’s Kastelli Airport.

According to Kikilias, part of the equation is better ports, marinas, and airports, with investment in aviation gateways across the republic playing a key role in the sector’s expansion. “We also have new flights from the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, flights going to Mykonos, Santorini and Eleftherios Venizelos airports. Upgrading our infrastructures is a key part of being sustainable for years to come,” he explains. “The biggest part of the peripheral economy is supported by tourism so large condominiums and big hotels are built and that means the administration has to upgrade the infrastructures. This is how we introduce our programme, our strategy, step by step. We are transforming the periphery of Greece, so it can welcome large numbers of travellers, but we don’t want to lose our culture or the uniqueness of our product. “Our strategy is to link the Gulf and countries in the Middle East and Asia with the other side of the Atlantic, and for the centre of the equation to be Greece, especially Athens and Thessaloniki.”


The government’s ambitious economic growth and investment targets are being supported by tangible infrastructure projects, including many related to trans- port. Indeed, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport has devised a €13 billion comprehensive infrastructure plan, much of which is funded by the EU.

Key infrastructure projects According to Kostas Achillea Karamanlis, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, the plan comprises the largest public works and infrastructure plan since the 2004 Olympic Games. “We have a two-fold target: on one hand to promote ‘green trans- port’ and ‘green infrastructure’ projects, and on the other hand to elevate Greece’s position as an infrastructure, transport and logistics hub of the greater South-Eastern Region,” he says.

“Our top priority is to pro- vide infrastructure projects that serve a specific strategy. We want Greece to become an infrastructure hub and a competitive intermodal corridor for the wider South-Eastern European region. “With the expansion of the Suez Canal, Piraeus has become an important hub, a port of entry for products from Asia. Our infrastructure projects aim to connect ports to industrial centres by rail, with €4.5 billion put towards upgrading our rail system. We have also commenced the third line of the Athens metro.” Bilateral relations between the UAE and Greece are moving forward in all fields of mutual interest, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visiting Abu Dhabi several times and many Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) inked in economic fields in a clear sign of a thriving strategic partnership. The duo also signed a deal involving $4 billion of Emirati investment in the Greek economy, with the aforementioned MoUs including pacts featuring powerful entities like Mubadala Investment Company and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

“We aspire to witness tangible progress in health care, infrastructure, renewable energy and other sectors,” Karamanlis adds. “We have projects focused on expanding motorways and airports, both of which form a very important strategic option for investors in the UAE.”

Cabinet colleague Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments, is excited about the opportunities created by the close ties to ‘strategic partners and friends”’— the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We set a common view about the future of our region. We admire their progress in producing renewable energy in new technologies and innovation. We admire the special leadership for their countries, and we want to expand our ties with them,” he states.

“This is a very clear message of friendship and respect to the people of the Middle East. We want to unite our future and go forward together.”


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