Speech by Minister of Tourism Harry Theoharis at the World Travel Market (WTM) exhibition 2020 - Χάρης Θεοχάρης - Υπουργός Τουρισμού

Speech by Minister of Tourism Harry Theoharis at the World Travel Market (WTM) exhibition 2020

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I am sorry that this year we cannot meet in person and discuss. The pandemic keeps us away, but Tourism unites us. I am optimistic however that next  will take place in my beloved London physically, a city where I studied and worked for years.

This year is a special one for everyone, and certainly for Greece that managed to open its tourism and welcome more than 750,000 British visitors. Greece opened its gates to tourism with a well-organized and detailed plan.

– We prepared health protocols for every economic activity.

-We trained hundreds of thousands of employees in the new protocols.

-We collaborated with the private sector that implemented exemplary the protocols without exceptions.

– We supported every island, every destination.

-We created the “EVA” system, the most innovative system for the distribution of tests, that improved the efficiency of tests up to 4 times.

With the campaign “Greece From Home”, we maintained the live image of Greece during the first phase of the pandemic giving visitors the opportunity to discover Greece and keep in touch with Greek culture without leaving home. With the campaign “Health First”, we highlighted that this year holidays and safety go hand-in-hand. With “Endless Greek Summer” we reminded to everyone that holidays in Greece is, above all, a state of mind, and with Greece4you, we “travelled” you to Northeast Aegean.

– We also created the “Visit Greece” app that offers complete tourist and health information that is constantly updated and offers personalized customer service irrespective of a person’s location. It is an application (app) that has operated successfully with a record of 550k downloads, 450k registrations up to date. In addition, almost 500 partners from all over Greece have joined the application’s promotional environment, while our goal is to add in the app all the companies that operate in the country.

Looking into next year, we are here to talk about the future.

We have high expectations for 2021.

We hope and believe that, with the contribution of science, in 2021 the whole of humanity will leave behind the painful adventure of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the reason why we do not stop working for a moment.

For us, Great Britain has a leading role to play.

The Ionian Islands, the Dodecanese, Crete welcomed British tourists who enjoyed the beauties of Greece and, returned back home happy.

From this year on- and under these special circumstances – we have already taken steps towards one of our strategic goals, which is the extension of the tourist season.

We work systematically with local communities and tourism professionals to achieve until 2022 an annual season with direct international arrivals.The UK tourism market will play a leading role in consolidating the annual season, and for this reason we will hold a series of workshops to which UK market professionals will be invited to participate.

At the same time, we believe that the British market can support new destinations in other Greek regions such as Western Epirus with the airport of Aktio, the Peloponnese and the North Aegean. We will work with tour operators and travel agents in this direction.

Greece, as a destination, will be supported with an advertising campaign on an annual basis, thus enhancing brand awareness and sales dynamics for industry professionals. In addition, collaborations with tour operators and airlines will run throughout the year.

Especially in 2021, a year that we consider milestone for the beginning of the tourist recovery, cooperation with the airlines will be expanded so that they are supported in a dynamic manner along with the tour operators.

In addition to enhancing maritime tourism, we work consistently to advance the thematic and alternative forms of tourism.

Greek gastronomy, diving tourism, health and wellness tourism, mountain and climbing tourism are forms of tourism with significant prospects.

We also take number of political initiatives.

As Minister of Tourism of Greece but also as President of the Regional Committee of Europe of the World Tourism Organization, I have presented the following 5 proposals for a sustainable tourism sector in the era of COVID-19.

First, investing in a vaccine because health is our first goal.

Second, a Common Travel Strategy. As countries will manage to curb the spread of the virus with the vaccine, general restrictions on the free movement to and from other regions or Member States with a similar epidemiological profile will have to be replaced by more targeted measures.

Third, stimulating demand to motivate citizens to travel.

Fourth, support of the Tourism Industry through the development of integrated recovery strategies for sectors that are mostly affected by the crisis. Businesses after all are an integral part of the tourism industry.

Fifth, these proposals must be under the umbrella of the Strategic Adjustment and must be supported by activities associated to local, regional, and national measures so that the tourism ecosystem lies on a stable basis.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

2021 is an important year for Greece for an additional reason; 2021 coincides with the celebration of 200 years since the rebirth of the modern Greek state.

That is why, it is twice as important for everyone to visit Greece next year: To celebrate with us the freedom and the right of all peoples to self-determination.

In 1821, Greeks became once again in history, a global example of passion for freedom and democracy.

The slogan “Freedom or Death” did not only inspire important personalities, such as Lord Byron.

If Ancient Greece gave birth to democracy and to the concept of the citizen with rights and obligations, the Revolution of 1821 offered these fundamental ideals the opportunity of rebirth.

2021 is a milestone for the Greeks who through a series of activities will re-introduce themselves to the world community.

We are a nation with ancient roots.

And at the same time, we are very young.

We were reborn just 200 years ago, having created our modern state from scratch.

In 2021, we will celebrate this anniversary.

And we are waiting to host all of you.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

When I was in London with you a year ago, I could never have imagined what would follow.

Today I feel proud because Greek tourism has succeeded.

The reputation and the brand of Greek tourism remain strong. Nothing was easy but we proved that nothing is impossible. And we move on to the day after.

As Odysseas Elytis, the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature once wrote “if you take Greece apart, in the end you will be left with an olive tree, a vineyard and a boat”.

Which means that these items are enough to make someone happy …

Greece is always like a wide-open embrace to welcome you.

She will offer you an authentic tourist product, different from all the others, with its own identity and distinct brand.

She will love you and you will love her.

Thank you for listening to me and I will be happy to welcome you next summer in Greece.