The popularity of Greece to tourists from India and Armenia is evident as demand has increased from both countries. In response to this, Greece's Tourism Ministry announced that the Greek Embassy in India is expanding its consular services to meet the demand of an increase in visa applications for travel. More specifically, the decision comes after the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist & Travel Agencies (fedHATTA) called for coordinated actions to cover under-staffed consulate services in view of the increased demand for visas this summer. Referring to India, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said there was optimism and positive feedback concerning traveler interest in Greece. Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias The Greek tourism ministry is hoping to tap into the Indian market which is ranked first in the world in terms of money spent on holidays. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), expenditure is expected to increase by 122 percent compared to 2019. Additionally, Indians abroad spend four times more money compared to the average tourist from Japan or China, 140 percent more than British travelers, and 71 percent more than Americans. Key areas of interest for traveling Indians include luxury, gastronomy, cultural, conference, wedding and film tourism products. Expanding to the Indian market has been a high ministry priority. Earlier this year during the 8th Session of the Greece-India Joint Economic Committee, the two countries signed a protocol of cooperation. They also agreed to explore the potential of tourism exchange and of direct air connections between Greece and India, following the ratification in February by Greek parliament of the Greece-India air connection agreement signed in 2017. “India is a huge tourism market with many travelers interested in alternative and theme tourism. In the strategy we have devised and are now implementing, we have invested a great deal in these forms of tourism,” said Kikilias. The minister went on to add that the benefits are multiple: attracting higher-spending travelers, extending the tourist season, and introducing lesser-known alternative destinations. “In this way, we are optimistic that we will achieve our goal, which is always to boost the average Greek family in as many areas of the country as possible,” he said. Elsewhere, Greece is looking outward taking actions to penetrate new markets and boost the country’s tourism product, said Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki during her visit to Yerevan, Armenia for the 67th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe. It is noted that Greece serves as Chair of the UNWTO Commission for Europe for the 2021-2023 period. Zacharaki, who presided over the meeting, which included the participation of UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and UNWTO Regional Director for Europe Alessandra Priante, met with Armenian tourism sector stakeholders to discuss ways to further strengthen ties between the two countries. Among others, she met with major Armenian tour operators and discussed specific actions to boost tourist flows, as well as with representatives from Enterprise Armenia. The minister said there was a growing interest by Armenians to visit Greece this year. During her visit to Erevan she visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan as well as the museum dedicated to Armenians who lost their lives during genocide. She also met with representatives of the Greek community in Armenia. Addressing the UNWTO meeting, Zacharaki referred to the great momentum in tourism this year, adding that there were reasonable hopes for full post-Covid-19 recovery. She stressed, however, that the sector globally and particularly in Europe was faced with significant challenges including the Russia- Ukraine war and soaring prices. On the sidelines of the event, Zacharaki had the chance together with the head of the ministry’s general directorate for Tourism Policy, Panagiota Dionysopoulou, to meet with partners from France, Portugal, Spain, and Bulgaria, to discuss cooperation in tourism and participation in activities for the UNWTO Maritime Tourism Research Center for the Mediterranean, which is based in Athens. “I had the opportunity to emphasize to our partners the impressive recovery of Greek tourism in 2021 and its even more dynamic development for 2022," she said. "We exchanged thoughts and ideas on how we can address the significant and common challenges in terms of employment, education, sustainability, but also public-private partnerships." Addressing a special discussion on Tourism and Rural Development, Zacharaki underlined the importance of developing alternative forms of tourism “in order to obtain a better quality, balanced and sustainable tourism product”. “In this context, we refer to the great success of the inclusion of Soufli in the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ as well as of Western Samos in the upgrade program,” she said. Zacharaki also presented the Greek tourism ministry’s new initiatives including the launch of special seal for visitable breweries, cheese-making factories and olive mills and to efforts being made to link the primary sector with tourism through programs supporting young farmers. The next UNWTO Commission for Europe meeting will be held in Bulgaria. READ MORE: Skiathos: The COMPLETE guide to the island of pine trees, pristine beaches and tavern food.