Looking at the data so far, how do things stand right now for tourism and how do you see the year evolving compared with the remarkable 2019?
In 2021, total tourism revenue was €10.6 billion, up from just €4.6 billion in 2020, which was the worst year of the pandemic. Achieving such revenue under the worst conditions in the history of tourism was quite an accomplishment, the result of a considerable collective effort led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Tellingly, last year we saw a 30% increase in per capita spending of visitors compared to 2019. We’re hoping for a similar increase this year, and based on Q1 of 2022, it seems the numbers are there. Most important for us now is to focus on revenues because that’s what generates income for local communities, which is what we want. The shift to high quality services and the increasing focus on sustainability are important factors in the effort to achieve growth not just in arrivals but also in revenues. 2022 is off to a good start, and we are working hard, in partnership with all tourism bodies and stakeholders, to ensure that this year is even better than the last—and I believe that we’ll succeed.
What makes Greece so uniquely appealing?
I think it’s our authenticity and distinctive character that charms visitors, and it is this unique allure that we set out to showcase with the GNTO’s latest campaign, you will want to stay forever. It stars Otto, an Austrian man who visited our country one summer, fell in love with the magical landscapes, Greek way of life and authentic people, and decided to stay here forever. There’s just something about Greece, a uniqueness that makes it one of the strongest and most recognizable tourism brands in the world. And this uniqueness flows through everything: its nature, its history and architecture, its gastronomy, and its people. At the same time, what makes Greece so extraordinary is its diversity and variety of landscapes, the multitude of experiences that visitors can enjoy here and of course the warm hospitality, or as we call it in Greece: philoxenia—the virtue of hospitableness that is after all deeply rooted in Ancient Greece. Because when it comes down to it, All you want is Greece!
Establishing the coast as an attractive tourism destination is a priority for the gnto, and that’s why our greekend city break campaign clearly showcases the allure of the capital’s seafront
Athens is enjoying growing popularity as a must-do city break destination. What are some of your favourite spots that visitors absolutely shouldn’t miss?
Athens, Attica is a microcosm of Greece. The region’s natural landscape has it all, from mountains to beaches, and the city itself is a vibrant European capital. The juxtaposition of ancient monuments and modern landmarks is breathtaking. You can really find and do anything here. Beyond the main sights, I would recommend taking a culinary walk-through downtown Athens and the central market, exploring the mountains that surround the city, and wandering around the neighbourhoods of Piraeus and Kastella.
While it may not be well known to visitors yet, Athens is truly a city by the sea, and I strive to highlight this interconnectedness through our work.
In terms of promoting the Athens Riviera, what are your priority markets?
The Athens Riviera is a fantastic, one-of-a-kind destination: 70 km of coastline in South Attica, stretching from the port of Piraeus to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio. It is one of Attica’s key assets and attracts investors, tourists, leading dining and hospitality brands, digital nomads, and people from around the world. The Ellinikon regeneration project will transform the Athens coastline forever and upgrade the entire area.
The city centre is the heart of the energy that Athens exudes.
Establishing the coast as an attractive tourism destination is a priority for the GNTO, and that’s why our Greekend city break campaign clearly showcases the allure of the capital’s seafront. We also support a range of key marine tourism happenings and other special events taking place in the area, and we are working closely with local government—the Region of Attica and the Municipality of Athens—to promote various kinds of city tourism. We have a lot to do still on that front, but I believe that we can effectively showcase Attica’s many extraordinary corners.
Which parts of Athens do you draw energy and inspiration from for a busy day at GNTO HQ?
The city centre is the heart of the energy that Athens exudes. I wander through the area often and see the emotion of visitors, who this year especially have arrived in droves. And when we see that our visitors are happy, we too feel satisfied with a job well done. Another area that’s really special to me is Piraeus, which has all the charm of a port city but is also developing rapidly, with important infrastructure and regeneration projects including the new tram and the renovation of Mikrolimano. To me, these two areas of Athens feel reenergising and inspiring.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the travel industry?
When Prime Minister Mitsotakis asked me to head up the GNTO, it was a great honour and responsibility. I grew up in one of the country’s most popular tourism destinations, Chania, and I have first-hand experience of the development of Greek tourism in that area from the 1980s to today—development that essentially followed the country’s upward growth trajectory. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to serve in this role for the past three or so years, even though, due to the pandemic, we experienced the worst crisis in the history of Greek tourism. There was a lesson there: We Greeks can achieve anything when we are united!