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GNTO: Covid-19 An Opportunity to Move Towards Sustainable Tourism

The Covid-19 pandemic could serve as a springboard to accelerate Greece’s transition to more sustainable tourism practices, Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) President Angela Gerekou said on the sidelines of the 66th Meeting of the World Tourism Organization Commission for Europe (CEU), which took place in Athens last week.

Participating in the “Sustainable Coastal and Maritime Tourism in the Mediterranean” event on board the Celebrity Apex in Piraeus, Gerekou discussed ways to address the challenges and tap into the opportunities of the pandemic, while stressing the importance of making sustainability the focal point of competitiveness.

Gerekou went on to add that sustainable practices are now more than ever of utmost importance and that mass tourism must change and be enriched with better quality offerings.

“In recent years, the need for ‘environmentally friendly’ tourism has become a key point, especially now that the pandemic crisis has accelerated a shift towards quality rather than quantity,” she said.

“Given that tourism is suffocating and intensifying pressure on the environment, nature, and local cultures, it is obvious that its global development can no longer continue without planning and organization,” said Gerekou.

She referred to steps towards the development of “sustainable maritime tourism” which should include “accessible policies for coasts and ports, upgrading infrastructure for tourist boats and sporting activities, and providing digital content services”.

She went on to underline the need for “smart tourism” practices which concentrate on environmental awareness, as well as on economic, social and digital activities that protect and utilize natural resources without harming the environment and undermining the future of next generations”.

On his part GNTO Secretary General Dimitris Fragakis said Greece was at a “critical crossroads” and after the efforts put into salvaging the sector during the pandemic, the focus and challenge was now to ensure the safe restart of tourism and adaptation to the new reality.

“The next day for Greek tourism will take place gradually, will take time and will depend, among others, on our adaptation to the new data. The pandemic, in addition to the damage it has caused the industry, also functions as an accelerator of developments in tourism,” he said.

Sustainability, he went on to say, should be among the priorities in the coming years, as well as “investing in authenticity and a distinct identity, security, hygiene, and in the digitization of tourism services”.

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