Ladies and gentlemen,

Unfortunately, a once unimaginable, war in Europe casts its grey shadow over all social, economic and environmental aspects, including tourism.

The conflict is adding further pressure to an already challenging economic environment, undermining consumer confidence and raising investment uncertainty.

Moreover, consumer purchasing power pressure is triggered by the effects of the conflict as well as increasing operational costs for the travel and tourism industry, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are still in the process to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

As you all know, the Greek Minister of Tourism, Mr. Vassilis Kikilias proposed to the European Union Tourism Ministers’ Council, organized by the EU French Presidency in France on the 18th March 2022, the creation of a European mechanism to address the crisis in Ukraine and its repercussions on tourism.

He also referred to the possibility of supporting the sector against the problems it is facing due to the rising cost of energy.

Kikilias’ proposal was accepted by his counterparts from Spain and Italy, who urged the EU to move in this direction.

In addition to the above proposal, Greek Minister of Tourism at the meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Yoel Razvozov, on the 30th March 2022, announced that he intends to take the initiative for regional cooperation in Tourism between the Mediterranean countries, with Mr. Razvozov to emphasize that Israel supports the Greek initiative.

The Greek government believes strongly that tourism is the main bridge for building understanding and tolerance, since it is designed to unite people, being a source of empowerment for local communities, women, youth and indigenous people, and serving as a vehicle for cultural exchange and promotion of human rights.

Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism of Greece promotes the diversification of tourism offer across the country and throughout the year. Thematic tourism is one of its strategic goals, with rural tourism, mountain tourism, ecotourism, agrotourism, gastronomy and wine tourism being at the top.

The strategic orientation of all projects related to diversified and inclusive tourism in Greece is to upgrade the national tourism product and achieve smart specialization at regional level, by promoting regulatory reforms, mobilizing private investments and developing lasting public-private synergies by adopting a whole-of-government approach.

The strategic aim is to meet rising demand for more authentic experiences that offer stronger engagement with local communities, their culture and products, as well as demand for a greener approach in all stages of the travel experience while capitalising on the opportunities for the economic, social and environmental revitalization of destinations through tourism.

Our aim is to make Greece a resilient, accessible and inclusive tourism destination for everyone. We care about our fellow citizens and our visitors with disabilities, and we are working to ensure that every person with disability, chronic illness or reduced mobility has the opportunity to fully and equally participate in the tourism chain, fulfilling the right to tourism for all.

Αt this point, it should be mentioned that from July we will have a new social tourism program for Greeks, amounting to 30,000,000 euros, with the possibility of holidays throughout the year, to support the weakest economic-wise-speaking citizens, as it was recently pointed out on 30th April by the Greek Minister of Tourism, Mr Vassilis Kikilias.

Furthermore, good quality of tourism jobs, appreciation of relevant qualifications and experience encourage career development and work satisfaction while they also contribute to better service and customer experiences.

In this respect, the Ministry of Tourism of Greece focuses on upgrading skills for the tourism workforce and also works against discrimination, gender inequality and accessibility for all. Moreover, digital education, reskilling and upskilling will provide the necessary basis to deal with increasingly interconnected digital markets and consumers.

Few recent facts underline our optimism.

Greece’s airports recorded a surge in arrivals in the first quarter of the year welcoming a total of 4.49 million passengers on 56,323 flights, according to data released recently by the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA).

In total for 2022, AIA will be welcoming 43 new routes on existing services, which will significantly boost the tourist flow to the Greek capital.

Furthermore, Athens International Airport (AIA) is expecting a major increase in arrivals from the United States this year with leading American carriers starting direct flights to Greece earlier and also increasing seat capacity due to high demand.

Not to forget that earlier this month, TUI Group said was it was moving full speed ahead with plans to bring more than 3 million visitors to Greece this year – much earlier than ever before and exceeding pre-Covid 2019 levels.

On Crete, the company named a TUI fly Boeing 737-8 “Heraklion” after the island’s capital, where the group does business and started its cruise season and homeporting cooperation with the departure of the “Mein Schiff 5” cruise ship with 1,650 guests.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is the right momentum for a profound systemic shift to a more sustainable tourism economy that works for both people and the planet. We have a strong basis as Greece is ranked 25th among 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2019 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness index.

Also, in individual indicators, Greece ranks 13th for its health & hygiene, 18th for air transport infrastructure and 18th for tourist service infrastructure.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are vital for a recovery that leads to greener, more inclusive economies, and stronger, more resilient societies.

We can make tourism a powerful engine of reducing inequalities, placing people’s prosperity at the heart of every policy and management approach and spreading the benefits of tourism to all.

We now have an opportunity to fast-track sustainable development by implementing recovery plans that are aligned with the SDGs.

The vision of the Ministry of Tourism of Greece is to increasingly comply with the SDGs of the UN 2030 Agenda by mainstreaming them into the national tourism policy and by establishing a national evaluation system to monitor the progress of their implementation.

To be more specific the wide range of interventions to boost tourism resilience and sustainability encompasses the creation of Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMMOs) to 10 World-Class Greek Tourism Destinations as pilots, the establishment of the DMMOs, improving licensing, certification and start-up operation procedures of tourism businesses and infrastructure for enterprises linked with special interest tourism, improved data management through the use of advanced information systems for the digitization of the operation of the Ministry of Tourism at national, regional and local level as well as data provision of access to tourism enterprises and the public.

Moreover, sustainable recovery is linked to multimodal transport and improved connectivity for rural destinations, smart management of tourism flows, the development of green skills for tourism professionals and more efforts to raise awareness of the variety of landscapes across the country. Slow tourism and micro experiences as well as immersive travel, greener and climate friendly holidays, extended stays linked to the possibility of tele-working (digital nomads legislation) are also widely promoted.

With more than 16,000 kilometers of coastline, more than 6,000 islands and islets, and a well-established tourism industry, Greece presents a prime investment opportunity in the Tourism sector. The country is one of the top global tourism destinations for sun and beach holidays and provides attractive propositions for year-round themed holidays.

Even during the crisis, the tourism industry in Greece has been one of the mainstays of economic growth and employment.

In addition, at a national level, coastal and maritime tourism can be a powerful tool for the development of the economy with its total economic contribution amounting to an estimated 1.4-1.5% of Greece’s GDP while the indirect contribution is considered to be 4 to 5 times higher.

Over the last decade, all the more holidaymakers from across the globe are coming to Greece, leasing out a yacht or sailboat and sailing off into Greece’s deep blue. Inaccessible coves, bays and inlets with breathtaking waters and pristine beaches are only one part of the reward. Add to that the dining and wining, the hiking and sightseeing, the swimming and sunbathing, and you’ve got the ultimate Greece sailing experience.

The cruise industry as it helped boost tourism to Greece in 2021,  is set to contribute to the country’s dynamic comeback this year, according to final data released by the Bank of Greece (BoG).

More specifically, according to the BoG’s “Cruise Survey”, Greece welcomed 2,074 cruise ship arrivals in 2021 up from 159 in 2020 and 1,538.8 thousand cruise passenger visits up from 68.2 thousand a year earlier.

After all, Greece is already one of the most popular destinations in the world for yachts, for reasons that are self-evident.

Indicatively, Christies Real Estate places the Greek Islands as the 2nd best destination in the world for luxury yachting, just behind the French Riviera and above destinations such as the Virgin Islands, Palm Beach, Florida and the Costa Esmeralda of Italy.

According to Bloomberg, Greece has been at the top of the SuperYachts since June 2021 with almost 200 moored vessels on June 25, 2021 (jump from 80 in May 2021) after the opening of tourism that followed the declaration of the pandemic.

It should also be noted that Greece is in the top-3 most popular destinations in charters market worldwide with a 17% market share, very close to the South of France (20% of the market) and Italy (19%).

Greece is also the 4th most popular destination for mega-yachts, a fact that creates significant pressures on the existing port infrastructure but also emphasizes the need to create specialized berths.

In the light of the above specialized form of tourism the Greek State has currently developed a plan that evolved in 3 strategic axes:

  1. The development of a new business friendly institutional framework for tourist ports with the aim of significantly accelerating the relevant procedures for allocation, contracting, and licensing of tourist ports. The goal here is to create a favorable investment environment in order to attract significant investments.
  • The introduction of a coherent marketing strategy that places thematic tourism and maritime tourism in the center: We move beyond the traditional “sea and sun” model and we further develop the brand identity of the country by offering a holistic towns & experience.
  • The establishment of a Maritime Information Tourism Research Center in strong collaboration with UN World Tourism Organization: That important project will provide us with invaluable information regarding maritime tourism to better align and focus on our strategy.

All the above shall contribute to the substantial development of maritime tourism and especially yachting, with the ultimate goal of establishing Greece as a global player in this key market segment.

Needless to say that out of the total of €320mn from the European RRF 40% will be invested in upgrading touristic ports of Greece.

In conclusion, amid on unprecedented international turmoil it is important to focus on all the things that make us optimistic about a better future. Provided, however, that we have delivered our best in the present.

Let’s not forget that in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity, as Albert Einstein once pointed out.

Therefore, we believe that this crisis is an opportunity to rethink the sector.  And only through collective action, solidarity and international cooperation we will be able to transform tourism, make it increasingly sustainable, responsible and resilient.

Thank you.