ΤΟΥΡΙΣΜΟΣ

Photo source: TUI Group (© Gregorschläger)

Leisure travel giant TUI Group is moving full speed ahead with plans to bring more than 3 million visitors to Greece this year – much earlier than ever before and exceeding pre-Covid 2019 levels.

Earlier this week on Crete, the company named a TUI fly Boeing 737-8 “Heraklion” after the island’s capital, where the group does business.

Irini Vasiliou, the godmother of the TUI fly “Heraklion” Boeing 737-8 aircraft. Photo source: TUI Group (© Gregorschläger)

On Sunday, also in Heraklion, TUI Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier launched the company’s “Mein Schiff 5” cruise ship with 1,650 guests which departed for a cruise to the Greek islands marking the start of the homeporting season.

In the meantime, TUI Fly Managing Director Oliver Lackmann said the group had added 62 new flights from Germany in April to Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos and the Peloponnese. TUI will run some 40,000 flights to 19 Greek airports this year. About one-third of TUI fly flights from Germany to Greece will fly to the airports of Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos and the Peloponnese. Lackmann added that apart from the daily TUI flights from Germany, TUI aircraft will fly to Greek destinations from Great Britain, Belgium, France, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. 

“This year, we offer a total of about 40,000 flights to 19 Greek airports. 9,000 take-offs and landings are planned throughout Europe from and to Crete alone. However, we have scheduled flights to smaller destinations such as Samos, Skiathos and Zakynthos,” he said.

Photo source: TUI Group (© Gregorschläger)

The TUI aircraft naming ceremony together with the cruise departure marked the dynamic launch of this year’s tourism season for TUI, which is the leading  tour operator on the Greek market expanding it services this year more than ever before.

Additionally, TUI has included more than 4,500 hotels at 24 destinations in its packages for Greece and holds a strong position in the local hotel sector with about 40 hotels operating under the TUI brand, including Robinson, TUI Magic Life, TUI Blue, TUI Suneo and TUI Kids Clubs. It has also added this year two 5-star hotels: the TUI Blue Sensatori Atlantica Caldera Palace on Crete and the TUI Blue Sensatori Atlantica Dreams Resort on Rhodes.

Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

“We are delighted that TUI is aiming for a record number of visitors with over 3 million to Greece,” said Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, adding that travelers with TUI will be coming to Greece four weeks earlier this year.

“We have an excellent cooperation and a relationship of trust with TUI for more than five decades. We are optimistic and look forward to a successful tourism season,” he said.

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Ferry arrivals to the Cyclades islands showed signs of recovery during the third quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in both 2020 and 2019 – prior to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic – according to data by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

Covering the main summer months (July, August and September), Q3 is usually Greece’s strongest in terms of tourism arrivals and revenues.

Data analysis shows that many of the popular Cyclades islands managed to cover some of the lost ground between 2019 – 2021 while others – such as Serifos and Sifnos – exceeded 2019 levels with arrivals increasing during July-September 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 and 2019.

Paros ranked first in terms of arrivals (560,479),  followed by Santorini (368,027) in second place and Mykonos (310,969) in third.

Milos (147,513 arrivals) recorded the largest increase in 2021 compared to 2019.

On the other hand, Andros, Ios, Naxos and Syros saw arrivals decrease by approximately 20,000 visitors during the third quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, the islands of Santorini, Paros, Mykonos and Milos saw arrival numbers drop further due to the – usually – longer summer tourism season.

Photo source: European Commission / Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis

Photo source: European Commission / Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis

ELSTAT’s data for ferry arrivals in Q3, 2021, are as follows:

Amorgos: 42,986 arrivals, up from 18,394 in 2020 and 40,105 in 2019
Andros: 128,201 arrivals, up from 96,498 in 2020 and down from 149,032 in 2019
Antiparos: 232,564 arrivals, up from 133,030 in 2020 and down from 236,326 in 2019
Thira (Santorini): 368,027 arrivals, up from 165,654 in 2020 and down from 575,047 in 2019
Ios: 76,225 arrivals, up from 33,415 in 2020 and down from 96,403 in 2019
Kythnos: 63,350 arrivals, up from 48,455 in 2020 and 56,851 in 2019
Milos: 147,513 arrivals, up from 85,453 in 2020 and 140,030 in 2019
Mykonos: 310,969 arrivals, up from 146,323 in 2020 and down from 438,522 in 2019
Naxos: 306,805 arrivals, up from 158,016 in 2020 and down from 324,534 in 2019
Paros: 560,479 arrivals, up from 303,699 in 2020 and down from 613,305 in 2019
Serifos: 60,036 arrivals, up from 40,659 in 2020 and 54,238 in 2019
Sifnos: 89,186 arrivals, up from 55,497 in 2020 and 87,889 in 2019
Syros: 151,357 arrivals, up from 101,440 in 2020 and down from 173,630 in 2019
Tinos: 223,629 arrivals, up from 134,049 in 2020 and down from 277,551 in 2019.

Passenger traffic at Greek ports up by 34% in Q3, 2021

Source: ELSTAT

Overall, total passenger traffic at Greek ports in the 3rd quarter of 2021 increased by 34.3 percent compared to the same period in 2020, ELSTAT said.

The number of domestic passengers reached 13,937,997, and international passengers 636,065.

Source: ELSTAT

The total movements of goods in Greek ports in the third quarter of 2021 increased by 0.2 percent compared to the third quarter 2020.

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Santorini island, Greece. Photo source: @Aegean Islands

One in four travelers chose to holiday on one of the South Aegean islands placing the region in the lead in terms of Greece’s arrivals, overnight stays and revenues in 2021, said Regional Governor Giorgos Hatzimarkos recently.

Citing Bank of Greece data, Hatzimarkos said the region surpassed by 30 percent the other regions with regard to tourist spending accounting for one-third of overall revenues.

The South Aegean, which includes such popular islands as Karpathos, Milos, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, also outdid other regions in terms of spending per visit and overnight expenditure – stronger by 13.2 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively.

According to Hatzimarkos, the South Aegean Region was the most popular destination accounting for the most visits overall compared to the country’s other regions and in the lead in terms of overnight stays.

South Aegean Region Governor George Hatzimarkos.

South Aegean Governor George Hatzimarkos

“The Bank of Greece results confirm what we experienced during the summer of 2021, when, with lots of work, seriousness, responsibility and cooperation, we conquered the highest and most difficult peak of Greek tourism,” said Hatzimarkos, adding that it was the result of a “regional tourism policy formulated and implemented in cooperation with all productive forces”.

“Accounting for one-third of total travel receipts and a quarter of visits to Greece, the South Aegean region spearheaded the country’s tourism recovery effort, supporting the national effort in the best possible manner,” he said.  

“We are entering 2022 with the impetus given to us by our success… building, planning and working for our next wins,” he concluded.

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Culture Minister Lina Mendoni at the Ottoman bath in the castle of Ioannina.

The Greek Culture Ministry has announced a strategic plan to restore and promote the landmark Ioannina castle in Western Greece.

“A set of projects and studies carried out in the area, are expected to change both the castle and the city,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said during a recent on-site inspection visit.

Among the projects run by the local Ephorate of Antiquities is the restoration and promotion of the Ottoman bath, budgeted at 1.25 million euros and funded by the Epirus regional operational program 2014-2020; the unification of the two fortresses in the northeast (Aslan Pasha mosque) and the southeast (Its Kale) sides; and the launch of studies for the renewal and modernization of the exhibitions of the Municipal and the Byzantine museums.

The ministry’s program also includes the launch of studies for the restoration of the Ottoman library and the Medrese, which is part of the Aslan Pasha mosque.

“The Castle features excellent spaces with rich history that should open to the citizens and visitors of Ioannina for sustainable use in collaboration with city organizations and private bodies,” Mendoni said.

While in Epirus, the minister met with Epirus Governor Alexandros Kachrimanis and Ioannina Mayor Moeses Elisaf.

The ancient theater of Dodoni.

Mendoni also visited the archaeological site of Dodoni where the ministry is carrying out restoration works worth some 4.79 million euros.

It should be mentioned that the region of Epirus is carrying out works in the area worth a total of 16 million euros and funded by the National Strategic Reference Framework 2014-2020.

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The European Commission recently launched the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) competition for 2023.

EDEN recognises and awards smaller destinations applying successful strategies to boost sustainable tourism through green transition practices.

The competition also promotes the development of sustainable tourism destinations that bring value to the economy, the planet, and the people.

To compete for the 2023 European Destination of Excellence title, the Commission is asking destinations to demonstrate their best practices in sustainable tourism and green transition.

The deadline for applications is on June1, at 5.00pm CET.

The current 2022 European Destination of Excellence, Middelfart in Denmark, serves as the inaugural holder of the new and improved initiative and as a sustainable tourism pioneer throughout Europe.

The competition covers EU countries and non-EU countries in the COSME programme. First, a panel of independent sustainability experts will evaluate applications.

In the second step, three shortlisted cities will present their candidature in front of the European jury. The European jury will select one winner, the European Destination of Excellence 2023, to be announced in November 2022.

The Commision will position the winning destination as a sustainable tourism pioneer committed to the European Green Deal objectives and provide expert EU level communication and branding support throughout 2023.

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Nemea, Peloponnese. Photo source: @Visit Greece

After Santorini and Western Macedonia, the Greek Tourism Ministry is heading to the Peloponnese to Nemea, where the 3rd Wine Tourism Conference kicks off today. 

On the initiative of Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki, the event is part of the ministry’s wine tourism road show series which kicked off in July 2021 in Santorini and was followed in November by an event in Western Macedonia.

The three-day conference titled “A Trip to Wine Through Time” is jointly organized by the tourism ministry, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), and the Peloponnese Region and aims to showcase the dynamic prospects of wine tourism and ways it can be integrated into the overall tourist experience.

Nemea is one of the key wine producing regions in Greece, boasting dozens of high quality labels.

Among others the event will include tours of wineries in the Nemea and Mantineia regions, tasting sessions and workshops.

Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias will address the event to be attended by Director – Regional Department for Europe at World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Alessandra Priante and Greek officials.

During the conference the tourism ministry will present Greece’s first wine tourism portal, which among others will include an interactive map offering information on the location of over 90 wineries across Greece and aimed at promoting the country’s wine tourism industry abroad.

A roundtable will also be held with the participation of local producers and tourism stakeholders as well as younger generation entrepreneurs. 

Greek Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki.

Greek Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki.

“With the valuable experience gained from the two previous events in Santorini and Western Macedonia, we continue with even greater intensity, creativity and enriched programing our effort for the international promotion of fine Greek wine production and the establishment of the Greek brand name in wine tourism internationally,” said Zacharaki, adding that the “priority now is to focus on the authenticity and multidimensional character of the experience that the visitor acquires, as well as reminding the local community of its comparative advantages which make it unique”.

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Aidipsos, Evia. Archive photo: Visit Greece / Y. Skoulas

A new measure that reduces leasing charges for seaside property is aimed at offering additional relief to tourism and F&B enterprises impacted by the deadly fires on Northern Evia last summer.

The sum reduced by 10 percent was announced by Christos Triantopoulos, minister responsible for recovery from natural disasters, and applies to the use of seashore and beach areas in Mandoudi, Limni, Agia Anna and Istiaia-Edipsos – all hit by the destructive fires.

“This additional measure aims to address the problems caused by last year’s wildfires to the economy of Northern Evia and in particular to the tourism sector. At the same time, the implementation of horizontal support measures continues,” said Triantopoulos, adding that property owners in Northern Evia are exempt from ENFIA property tax payments for 2022.

General view of the burnt forest in the mountain near the village of Avgaria on Evia island. Copyright European Union 2021 / Photographer: Sotiris Dimitropoulmos

Last August, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Evia residents and business owners impacted by the devastating fires that ravaged the island for nine days would be receiving financial support. Among others extensive infrastructure upgrades, road network improvements, forest regeneration and the development of tourism facilities are among the key priorities set out in the plan for the regeneration of Northern Evia.

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Photo source: Kalamata Municipality

Construction of a seaplane port in the town of Kalamata is set to begin after local government and relevant ministries approved licensing, Hellenic Seaplanes announced this week. 

Once completed, the Kalamata port will be connected with a wider waterway network linking the Greek islands through seaplane transport. The project is expected to improve access, increase tourism to the region, boost revenues, and create new jobs.

Running the licensing procedures, Hellenic Seaplanes is aiming to be the first in Greece to offer hydroplane connections to the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands. The company said that it was now drawing up a tentative hydroplane flight schedule connecting Kalamata with the Ionian islands, Kythira, Patra, Lake Taka, Kyllini and Laconian Mani.

“This initiative is expected to support the region’s strategic plan for the support and further development of tourism in Kalamata and in the Peloponnese,” said Peloponnese Regional Governor Panagiotis Nikas.

Peloponnese Regional Governor Panagiotis Nikas.

Peloponnese Regional Governor Panagiotis Nikas.

“The establishment of a waterway in Kalamata creates an important development perspective as it strengthens the tourism sector, which is a key pillar of development for Greece, while creating a significant investment field with considerable benefits. In addition, the use of seaplanes is expected to strengthen efforts to meet the growing demands of travel as seaplanes can transport passengers and cargo as well as create hundreds of new jobs,” Nikas said.

“With its own waterway, Kalamata will have all the components in place to further strengthen its position on the tourist map of Greece, hosting thousands of travelers but also serving the locals and their commercial activities on a daily basis,” said Hellenic Seaplanes President and CEO Nikolas Charalambous.

Hellenic Seaplanes plans to launch its first flights from the islands of Tinos – where waterway infrastructure is already underway; Patmos with works near completion; and Sifnos, where works will begin immediately, the company said.

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Naxos Airport. Photo source: Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority

A project to improve and expand the infrastructure at the airport on the Greek island of Naxos has secured funds of 23.07 million euros by the “Transport Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development 2014-2020” operational program.

According to an announcement by the Greek Investments Ministry, works include the expansion of the runway and the aircraft parking area; the improvement of the maneuvering area; the widening of existing taxiways; and the construction of two new ones.

Furthermore, funds will be allocated for security projects, as well as for archaeological research and expropriations.

Photo © Municipality of Naxos and Small Cyclades

According to the ministry, this project will create the appropriate safety conditions and improve the level of service for larger aircraft and direct flights from abroad.

It is also expected to improve air connectivity to/from Naxos and facilitate travel for the island’s residents and visitors.

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Greece’s northern port city of Thessaloniki is among Central Macedonia’s filming locations of “The Bricklayer”, a new Hollywood production that began shooting in mid-March, starring Aaron Eckhart and Nina Dobrev.

“The Bricklayer” is the third production of Millennium Media taking place in Thessaloniki after “The Enforcer (Barracuda)” and the “Expendables 4”.

On the set in the center of Thessaloniki

With the main plot of “The Bricklayer” set in Thessaloniki, filming took place in a number of locations including the Ladadica district, the upper town, Aristotelous square and the building that houses city hall.

Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas on the set of “The Bricklayer”.

Many Greek actors are participating in the 21-million-euro production, which is also supporting local businesses, generating new jobs and contributing to the local economy.

“We’re very excited that another great Hollywood movie, the third, has chosen Thessaloniki and Central Macedonia as a shooting location,” Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas said while visiting the set.

Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas with the crew of “The Bricklayer”.

The governor underlined that through “The Bricklayer”, Thessaloniki will be directly advertised all over the world.

“Our region is now well on the world map of audiovisual productions, while at the same time it is promoted as a tourism destination,” he said.

Thessaloniki’s city hall “transforms” into CIA headquarters

Many of the scenes of “The Bricklayer” were shot inside the building of city hall which was transformed into CIA headquarters.

During filming, Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas had the chance to meet and discuss with Hollywood actors Aaron Eckhart and Nina Dobrev, director Renny Harlin and Millennium Media producer Rob Van Norden.

“This film will be another good reason to visit our Thessaloniki,” the city’s mayor said during his visit on the movie set.

Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas, actress Nina Dobrev, Deputy Mayor of Culture and Tourism Maria Karagianni and Millennium Media Prodcuder Rob Van Norden.

Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas, actress Nina Dobrev, Deputy Mayor of Culture and Tourism Maria Karagianni and Millennium Media Prodcuder Rob Van Norden.

Central Macedonia was selected for filming the action-thriller thanks to the efforts of the regional film office based in Thessaloniki. Scenes are also expected to be shot at the Millennium studio in Thermi and in several Central Macedonia destinations.

Two more films are scheduled to start shooting in Thessaloniki in the near future.

“The Bricklayer” will hit movie theaters in 2023.

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