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Minister ambitious on tourism

Greece`s tourism industry should no longer be considered a prop to be taken advantage of, but represent a strong arm of the country`s strategic economic policy…

Greece`s tourism industry should no longer be considered a prop to be taken advantage of, but represent a strong arm of the country`s strategic economic policy, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis asserted last Friday.

Speaking at an official dinner co-organised by the panhellenic hoteliers` federation for the Tourist Panorama 2000 fair, which ended yesterday, he expressed a farsightedness and ambitiousness in government policy on tourism not seen in decades, the Macedonian Press Agency reported.

Christodoulakis proposed the creation of an Olympic tourism package as part of the planning process for the Athens 2004 Games.

In referring to the distribution of Third EU Community Support Fund monies, he said a unified business plan would be designed covering all sectors, under the title Competition and development, with one industry able to assist the other where needed.

Christodoulakis also underlined the importance of the single currency to European citizens and the changes it will bring to currency exchange while stressing that Greece should present a positive image on the international geopolitical stage.

Hundreds of holidaymakers and tourism entrepreneurs flocked to the four-day tourism fair at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens.

Regions throughout Greece were featured at the event and, for the first time, countries including Tunisia as well as carriers such as Turkish Airlines, reflecting not just an expansion of Greeks` horizons – both mental and physical – but their wallets. Travel agencies specialising in outgoing tourism proffered various brochures on special deals for exotic destinations like Cuba and the Caribbean which are proving extremely popular among Greeks, particularly the adventurous and affluent twenty- and thirtysomethings.

Local tourism authorities and private enterprise welcomed visitors to their imaginatively presented, and often traditionally decorated stands that were filled with tempting specialties – a sweet invitation to experience their hospitality. The spotlight may have fallen on the diverse Peloponnese region, in southern Greece, this year but prefectures around Greece made sure they did not miss out on the action involving more than 400 exhibitors.

Alternative tourism appeared to be a major drawcard this year, with several companies presenting travel packages that combine activities such as hiking, horseriding and rafting. Younger vacationers, particularly students, representing a physically active, health-conscious generation of Greeks, expressed especial interest. Regional authorities and tourism promotion boards have printed lively pamphlets informing of the wide range of thematic travel options available along with the wildlife and natural environment, much of it unique, that can be viewed and enjoyed in each area. At Nestos River, for example, in the northern prefecture of Xanthi, nature-lovers can see detailed perspectives of various sections of the waterway via video camera, without disturbing the environment.

At the opening of the fair, Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT) general secretary Evgenios Yiannakopoulos said he expected 2000 would prove a record year for Greek tourism after 1999 arrivals rose by 11 percent, despite the problems brought on by the Yugoslav war.

He emphasised that arrival figures should not be viewed as the single most important factor but rather efforts to increase the average expenditure of tourists from abroad.

Yiannakopoulos said the next 10 years would be the decade of Greek tourism as major changes will occur in the sector while the Athens 2004 Olympics should also boost the country`s image.

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