Mr. Dimitris Fragakis, the Secretary-General of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), was the guest speaker at last night’s successful Greek Australian Dialogue Series.
The event was organised by Mr. Paul Nicolaou, the Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Leaders Council and Mrs. Katia Gkikiza, Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia.
The virtual meeting was an opportunity for Greek Australian business leaders to learn about Greece’s successful effort to provide a safe, high quality environment for visitors and how the country is preparing for the next season.
“The year 2017 was a special year for tourism in Greece. It exceeded 30 million arrivals for the first time. It was also a very special year for tourism from Australia to Greece. In the year 2017, tourist arrivals from Australia to Greece almost doubled. We passed 300,000 arrivals for the first time. (…) That rate of increase was the highest recorded in 2017. And since then we have kept this strong trend and we have seen new increases. In the year 2019, we welcomed around 340,000 Australians to Greece,” Mrs. Katia Gzikiza said.
The Greek National Tourism Organisation that was founded in 1929 and was re-established in 1950, is a Public Entity (PE) under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism. Its main mission is to develop and promote the Greek tourism product through the implementation of promotional tourism campaigns both in Greece and abroad utilising as well its extensive network of overseas offices.
Moreover, with its vast experience and expertise and its large network of associates and stakeholders both in Greece and abroad, the GNTO has been and continues to be fundamental in the national effort of promoting “Greece”, this truly unique and amazing destination, both cost-effectively and efficiently.
Last night’s event was the the first time Mr. Dimitris Fragakis had spoken to an Australian audience. During his presentation, he discussed Greek tourism this year and what the country is preparing to do next year.
“Tourism is the heavy industry of Greek economy. […] It represents about 25% of the Greek GDP. It’s the biggest amount of GDP of all the other sectors of our economy. 700,000 people approximately work in the sector of tourism all over Greece. Last year, 2019, was a great year for Greek tourism. It was a record for Greece. We had an income of 23.5 billion from tourism and we had approximately 20 million visitors from abroad. It was one of the greatest years, seasons of Greek tourism historically,” he stated in his opening remarks.
He also mentioned that they believed tourism would be better this year, and had great expectations, however the covid-19 pandemic stopped everything. “As we started to reopen our country and economy, in the middle of May, we had to change some decisions as far as tourism concerned. We had to restart tourism in Greece which was a difficult effort, but the government managed to do so.” There were three initiatives taken:
- The imposition of health protocols on every aspect of the tourism industry (restaurants, hotels, transport, airlines, etc.) in every region of Greece
- The strengthening of health infrastructure in hospitals and private healthcare
- Strict controls and measures were enforced
Mr. Fragakis noted that from the 1st of July until the end of August, Greece conducted half a million covid-19 tests to visitors in Greece. Only 0.2% were covid-19 positive.
“We managed from March to May during the general lockdown of Greece, to keep our people safe. And I was really confident that we would also keep safe our visitors too. And that is what we did. And we did it right,” he said.
Regarding 2021, the Secretary-General of the Greek National Tourism Organisation stated that the government is going to do the same good job. “We are already preparing for 2021. (…) the Greek National Tourism Organisation’s first goal is to promote Greece and tourism abroad. And of course Australia is a very, very important market for us. Not only because of the Greek diaspora, but because it is a big tourism market.”
Greece is not only sea and sun. It’s civilisation, culture, gastronomy, extreme sports and things to do and see all over the year, not just in summer.
A number of attendees also had the opportunity to ask Mr. Fragakis questions.
Concerning a closer connection between the GNTO to Australia, he stated that “it would be a really great opportunity” for them to have an office in Melbourne. “It will be useful for us to connect Greece and the central offices of GNTO (in Athens) with Greece and the Greek people of the diaspora.”
When asked about the possibility of designating a bubble that enables transit flow to Greece without evoking quarantine, the Secretary-General responded: “It’s an issue that is global. It’s not only about Greek tourism, but worldwide tourism. What will be the procedures next year if the pandemic will be strong as it is right now? What will be the procedures for travelling? We can’t afford as a world another year of no travelling because a great part of the global economy will collapse.” He also referred that the EU has imposed measures to help and encourage people to travel, including rapid tests before flying.
One of the biggest problems for Greece this summer was that a lot of countries didn’t allow travel to Greece. “This is a real, big problem we have to deal with. We can’t wait for the pandemic to go away. Maybe we need time to live with it. We need to do some things to have clear rules between all the countries. An option could be a travel bubble between Greece and Australia? But these discussions and solutions might not happen in the next 2/3 months, maybe 6 months.”
It is noted that there’s a ban on overseas travel from Australia.
The closing remarks and vote of thanks were given by Mrs. Angela Tomazos, the Chair of the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) Northern Territory. “I know I say this on behalf of everyone, we appreciate that you have been open to what we have thought of in the past, suggestions now and open to ideas.”
“We look forward to the day that we can see you here in Australia so you can promote the wonderful culture of Greece to the diaspora and to all the Australian community who wants to visit,” she added.
Concluding, Mr Siampanis stated that it was a great honour and opportunity for him to contact Greek Australian leaders (even if it was virtually).