«Crete plays a leading role, with tourism increases above the average in Greece and in 2017 we expect it to reach 10% and 4.5 million international arrivals,» stressed Elena Koundoura, Minister of Tourism in an interview to In-On magazine.
Question. What is the new planning to increase the tourist season in Crete?
Answer. Our goal is to make Greece a world-renowned tourist destination for 365 days a year. The national regional tourism plan that we have designed and implemented since 2015 has driven all the tourist figures during the last three years to reach the highest performances of all times. Crete is an amazing destination with a strong tourist product and international reputation, which stands out for its authenticity. At the same time it is a mature destination that covers all the requirements to directly support the goal for tourism throughout the year. For three consecutive years that our tourism policy has been implemented, Crete is leading the way with a growth above the average increase in Greek tourism and in 2017 we expect we will have 10% increase and about 4.5 million international arrivals. In order to materialize our strategic and development goals, we have sought and have succeeded to have excellent cooperation with the Region of Crete so as to:
• widen the summer tourist season, which already has given excellent results,
• attract visitors traveling all year round from the new markets we have opened, enhancing at the same time connectivity and direct flights,
• promote the emergence of new destinations in Crete
• promote the development of thematic tourism focusing on the authentic experiences and based on the competitive advantages of the region,
• and attract new high quality tourism investment
Through our contacts and strategic agreements with international travel groups and airlines, we have ensured the expansion of their programs from the end of March until November 2016 and even more dynamically in 2017. This has resulted in that September, October and November being the best months ever and also showing double-figured growth in international arrivals.
Our immediate goal in order to implement our business plan is to start direct flights to Crete throughout the year.
We also focus on supporting the destination with new availability and high quality infrastructure and services so to serve the ever-increasing demand in the coming years. Proposals for 4 and 5 star hotels were submitted to the services of the Ministry of Tourism over the past two years and more than 380 tourist businesses were licensed. Investments in three complex tourist accommodation units are now at different licensing stages and 47 hotel investment proposals have been submitted to the development law reaching a total budget of over 117 million euros. Strategic investments are in progress in Lasithi, as well as the construction of new units by international tourist groups that reinforce their hotel portfolio on the island.
Question. Tell us your deals with TUI and major tour operators for the increase of tourists in Crete
Answer. With targeted negotiations during the last three years and with the strategic partnerships we are developing with international tourist groups, we strengthen the popular destinations of Crete by showing new destinations and all the thematic experiences that Crete offers as far as tourism is concerned throughout the year. Crete constitutes now a strategic choice of international groups and especially in the last two years we have sought to increase our tourist share from the traditional markets of Europe as well as from Russia, a country which we have strengthened and promoted even more dynamically with the 2017-2018 Greek-Russian Year of Tourism and also in the new markets we have opened in China, in the Middle East and in India.
The messages for 2018 are very positive and the reservations for Crete have started with an increase of more than 5% from all major markets.
We continuously upgrade the product; namely the sun and the sea, while promoting very dynamically the thematic forms of tourism so that visitors come all year to experience the historical and cultural heritage of Crete, its rich tradition, customs, the Cretan music and its festivals, the infinite possibilities for alternative tourism in its unique nature, the authentic experiences of the island’s interior and the dozens of traditional villages all year round. With its excellent climate and modern infrastructure, Crete is ideal for sports and training tourism, for health and wellness tourism, also having a great potential for conference tourism and city trips and above all the unique Cretan gastronomy. Furthermore, we are actively promoting sea tourism, cruise and yachting and diving tourism. Through our strategic partnerships, such as with TUI, we promote Crete as a home port for the cruise. The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) as the national body of the Global Communication for the Promotion of Communication Strategy implements a very dynamic program with mixed advertising, co-advertising, promotion on global electronic platforms and television networks establishing enhanced presence in International Tourism with exhibitions and the organization of the largest in number ever familiarization trips.
Question. What are the new schemes for agrι-food tourism with the contribution of the Ministry of Tourism?
Answer. Linking tourism to primary production and the agri-food sector is a priority in our government policy for the country’s reproductive reconstruction. Crete is a blessed land, with abundant and high quality local products, which constitute an integral part of its history, its tradition and its gastronomy which is based on the healthy and nutritious Cretan diet. Extra virgin olive oil, excellent wines, pure cheeses, the unique aromatic herbs with their beneficial properties and the fresh fruit and vegetables are definitely associated with the destination’s identity and add more value to the tourist product. Through the Agrι-Food Industry and Tourism Forum that we have established with the relevant ministries, specific policies are being developed in order to encourage the creation of value chains, networking and other cooperative bonds between businesses in these fields. Specific actions will be included in the co-funded NSRF programs. We also support the inclusion of products in the hotel and tourist chain through the project of «Greek Breakfast» supervised by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels. We also promote the scheme of «Breakfast Basket» in the rented rooms and tourist accommodation and we give the special licenses of the Greek cuisine and the visiting winery. We support the targeted actions of the Region of Crete for the programs and routes of agrotourism and agri-food. We also strongly support the pilot project for the promotion of Crete as an example of a sustainable diet holiday destination implemented by the TUI Group and the European Futouris Network with the participation of over 200 producers, olive presses and wineries as well as the development of excursion projects. We have established with the Ministry of Rural Development and Food the specifications of the tourist accommodation so as to be included in the NSRF Leader programs and we are working on the new framework for the standards of agro tourism and the provision of a special license for it.
Our aim is to support tourism in Greece and especially in Crete through local tourism, to help the professionals of these productive sectors through new professional activities, new sources of income and new jobs. Tourism is a powerful driving force for growth which generates economic and developmental benefits that we seek to achieve in all destinations and local communities.
Elena Kountoura is the minister of Tourism of Greece.
She was born in Athens. He has been a member of the National Athletics Team for many years and was a Greek champion in high jump at 100m. with obstacles winning pan-Hellenic records, pan Hellenic victories and international distinc tions.
She is a graduate of the school of Physical Education and Sports Science at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens.
She speaks English, French and Spanish
1984 -1996: International career in the global fashion industry
1996 -2003: Career in publishing and magazines with an emphasis on women’s and social issues.
She was elected a Member of the Greek Parliament 6 times.
In the period 2004-2007, she was MP of the first district of Athens under the New Democracy political party. In 2012, she was the first to participate in the Independent Greeks political movement group. She was the first to elect in the first district of Athens under the Independent Greeks political party during the four national elections, two in 2012 and two in 2015.
She has served as Secretary General of the Parliamentary group of the movement and also in the sector of Tourism.
In the co-operation of the parties of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks in January 2015 under the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras , she was given the portfolio of tourism as Deputy Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism and in November 2016 she was appointed Minister of Tourism.
She has been a member of the Tourism, Health and Social Solidarity Committees, President of the Parliamentary group of the Greek-Korean Friendship and a member of the Friendship Groups with Romania, Jordan, Uzbekistan and France.
She has also participated in the Special Standing parliamentary Committee on Equality and Human Rights, in the Special Standing parliamentary Committee on the Protection of the Environment and in the Special Standing parliamentary Committee on Educational Affairs.
She is the president of the non-profit organization «Europa Donna Hellas» for the prevention and information on breast cancer and the claim for better services for cancer patients.
She has been awarded for her support to the dissemination of Greek Paralympic Volunteering. In December 2007, she was honored by the Greek State as Goodwill Ambassador for Social Volunteering.
Back in the 27th edition In-On