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L-R: Navigator ceo Andreas Stylianopoulos, Minister Elena Kountoura and George Tziallas secretary general for tourism policy and development Greek Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism

Greece doubling spend on tourism promotion says Tourism Minister

Greece is doubling its investment to €18m this year on promoting the country as a welcoming tourism destination at trade events, on webinars, fam trips for media and educating travel agents, informed Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura during an interview at Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday.

The Minister, just over one year in her post, outlined her strategy to grow tourism in general through prolonging the season, thematic tourism, opening up to new source markets such as Korea, China and the Middle East whilst re-enforcing Greece's appeal as a holiday destination in traditional European and US markets.

In 2015, Greece attracted a record 26.5m tourists of which cruise visitors accounted for 2.5m. It is expecting further growth this year with cruise tourism recording around 3m passengers as the country's ports benefit from changes in itineraries due to several cancellations of calls in Turkish ports. 'Whilst we may benefit short-term from the current situation it is in the best interests of everyone to have regional stability,' she said.

She called the cruise market special and different, 'as we are dealing with tourists visiting multiple Greek destinations (around 20 main cruise ports)for only a few hours.' First impressions are important, she commented.

Minister Kountoura said, 'We need to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to welcome cruise ships and that we provide a high quality service,' and to this end she has been attending Seatrade Cruise Global to meet with cruise lines executives to discuss their needs and concerns.

Her Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism is working closely with the Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Transport to ensure there is a programme of continual investment in port infrastruture, she added.

'We are facing geopolitical issues in the region,' but Minister Kountoura said some media reports are exaggerating the reality of the situation. She  insisted there are very few immigrants left on the Greek islands now with most located in the northern interior part of the country close to the border, she said.

'I guarantee that any cruise tourist visiting Greece this year will have the best time of their lives,' she exclaimed. 'The same renowned hospitality the Greek people showed to the fleeing refugees last year will be shown to cruise tourists arrivals this year,' she concluded.

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