The Greek Minster of Tourism Elena Kountoura visited Egypt in February, where, in an interview with privately owned broadcast station MBC Egypt, she expressed that the Greek government is ready to enhance bilateral-relations with Egypt.
Kountoura noted that representatives from the two countries are working on a marketing programme that will promote tourism between Greece and Egypt.
“We have to support the private sector in both Egypt and Greece to develop tourism in both countries”, she added.
Despite Greece’s financial crisis, Kountoura claimed that tourism is operating very well. However, the country is still working to make gains. Greece hosted 26 million tourists last year.
To further investigate the state of the Greek tourism sector, Daily News interviewed George Alexiou, the owner of the Greek travel agency Santo-Line, based on the Greek island of Santorini.
Can you describe the kind of activities in which Santo-Line is involved?
We are a travel agency and our priority is transfers and tours. We own big buses, mini buses, and mini vans for transportation and private tours.
In addition, we do all kinds of activities that a travel agency does, including arranging accommodations, excursions, weddings, etc.
I would like to clarify that what we care about is to give our clients the best service, which means that we don’t really care about the quantity. What we really care about is quality.
We offer a personal assistant for every client; upon arrival, our assistant meets the visitor, exchanges contact details, and is available to the visitor 24/7 for questions, suggestions, and, of course, to sort out any kind of problems the tourist might face.
How about the Arab tourism to Santorini?
We do not see many Arab nationals here, but most of those who visit the island are from Lebanon.
What do you think about the Egyptian tourism abroad?
I think that Egyptians, with all the political issues that they are facing, are not able to travel that much, compared to a few years ago.
I believe that Egypt was a big market for us, and vice-versa, mostly because of cruise ship excursions.
The owner of one of the biggest travel agencies in Greece is half-Egyptian. I worked for his agency for one year.
Was the tourism in Santorini affected by Greece’s financial crisis?
To be honest, people who work in tourism, especially in many Greek islands, including the famous ones, such as Santorini and Mykonos, have no right to complain about the crisis, compared to the situation in the rest of the country.
Of course we faced some problems, including capital control and a raise in taxes. We had 9% VAT [value added tax] until June 2015, then, at the beginning of July, in the middle of the tourism season, it was raised to 16%. Once more, at the beginning of October, it went up to 23%. This impacted us as we couldn’t raise our rates in the middle of the season.
What does your company do to attract more tourists, especially measures that might be relevant to Egyptian travel agencies?
It’s simple, to attract more tourists and more collaborators we are trying to provide better services at good prices. Also, we are trying to offer new ideas for travel packages that have not been carried out on the island before.
So, the eurozone crisis and the stress other European countries have placed on Greece does not directly impact your companies’ activities?
I believe that this has to do with politics. In other words, these governments that are putting stress on Greece do not prevent their citizens from coming to Greece.
How do you promote and market for your company?
The main campaign is working via the internet. We are also the first company in the Greek islands to organise a free walking tour every day, from the first of May until the last day of October.
What is the role of the Greek National Tourism Organisation?
The role of the Greek organisation is to promote safety and showing Greece to be a place that provides an unforgettable time for visitors.
The last campaign the organisation tried to convey that despite the chaos in Greece, the country is still a place where visitors can enjoy the sun, the sea, and history.