Dear Minister,

Dear Representatives of the Travel & Tourism Industry,

Ladies and gentlemen,

With great pleasure, I participate in the Re-Ally Tourism: The Hellenic and European Travel Agents Initiative conference and I would like to thank for the invitation both Mr Kelaiditis, President of FedHATTA and Mr Tsilidis, President of HATTA.

Greece shares the global concerns on the current universal economic situation about the decline in economic growth, in particular due to the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which is adding further pressure to an already challenging economic environment, undermining consumer confidence and raising investment uncertainty.

Despite the current uncertainties, the tourism sector and travelers around the world eagerly await the return of travel.

Few recent facts underline our optimism.

Greece’s tourism industry is indicating positive signs for 2022 since 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).

On top of that, Athens International Airport (AIA) will welcome 43 new routes on existing services, including 6 new airlines and 8 new destinations for the summer 2022 season.

Furthermore, seasonal flights from the US will run until October and, according to Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, 2022 is expected to mark a record number of direct flights from the US with more than 460,000 available airline seats.

What’s more, 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.

In addition to the above, European Travel Agents & Tour Operators Association (ECTAA), the umbrella organization for Europe’s travel agents and tour operators where President and Secretary General honor us with their presence this afternoon, inked a deal last month with the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) making Greece its preferred destination for 2022.

Under the deal, ECTAA will promote Greece as its preferred travel destination in the next 12 months among its 70,000 members of travel agents and tour operators in Europe.

In this direction, ECTAA will bring together European travel agents and tour operators with local destination management companies and other partners.

Key winning points for our country, according to ECTAA, are safety, warm hospitality, stunning coastlines, beautiful islands, delicious cuisine and high-quality tourism infrastructure – all on offer throughout the year.

“All You Want Is Greece will become familiar for many European travelers,” said ECTAA in a statement.

And rightly so, may I add. 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 of the agenda.

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.

Our 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.

We wish to make Greece a resilient, accessible and inclusive tourism destination for everyone. 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 to provide accessibility for all. Moreover, digital education, reskilling and upskilling will provide the necessary basis to deal with increasingly interconnected digital markets and consumers.

Dear friends,

It goes without saying: it is the right momentum for a profound systemic shift to a more sustainable tourism economy that works for both people and the planet. Innovation and sustainability have become the new normal, afterall.

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

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.

In conclusion: Within crisis are the seeds of opportunity.

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

Thank you.