By Ilias Karagiannis
A strong imprint of optimism has been given by Dimitris Fragakis, the Secretary General of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO or EOT).
Mr Fragakis, who since taking office has been on a constant creative alert, reveals that a trip to Australia “will be a priority for him” when pandemic conditions permit.
But he also revealed a fact which, if confirmed, will satisfy a request of the Greek community in Australia. This is the resumption of an EOT office in the country.
“It is now my priority to visit Australia, as soon as circumstances permit, in order to get in touch with relevant bodies and consider, among other things, the possibility of setting up an EOT office in the country. The conditions have now matured and I believe we will do so,” he stated.
“For the Greek government as a whole, homogeneity is a priority in order to maintain the ties that bind us. That is why it is in the EOT’s intention to cooperate much more closely with Australia, as all researches shows that it has great potential and advantages as a market.
“Australia is therefore an important market for Greece and is high on this government’s priority list. You would have seen it as early as in the campaign we had prepared for 2020, if it hadn’t been for the sudden change in our planning due to the pandemic.
“In October, at the invitation of the director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I had the pleasure of discussing important issues with many members of the active Melbourne Greek Community and marketing people.
“I have received specific proposals and offers, not only for the opening of an EOT office in Melbourne, but for wider synergies, in the context of strengthening the Greek tourism market.”
Of course, with the pandemic, like quicksand sucking up every plan, everything seems to be spinning in a vortex of uncertainty. Nevertheless, Greece, in 2020, had a weak rate for the tourist season and the question to the Secretary General of the EOT concerns its valuation.
“It is a fact that the world experienced unprecedented things in 2020. Greek tourism has suffered a severe blow, as have almost all economic activities in our country.
“In 2020 we lost a lot, in revenue and in arrivals, while thousands of Greek businesses and tourism workers suffered significant economic damage in the past season. We all think we want to put 2020 behind us and make a fresh start in 2021.
“On the positive side, however, is the credibility shown by our country with the safe opening up of tourism, the professionalism shown by the whole tourist world and the successful adaptation of all of the new conditions.
“These, together with some revenues of no more than 4 billion EUR for 2020, are what we hold as ‘positives’ and as a legacy for 2021. In this respect, and mutatis mutandis, we have achieved a great deal in a short time and adverse conditions.
The income forecast for the coming season in Greece are characterised by uncertainty, in a substantially transitional year.
“The pandemic is so volatile and affects societies and economies so deeply that it is difficult to make safe assessments of the future.
“But just as we have not been idle in 2020, we are now on our toes and have already started preparing for 2021. In the coming season we have more weapons than last year in terms of defending tourism amid the pandemic.
“Vaccines, rapid tests and health protocols in accommodation, transport and focus that worked well last year are important factors that will have a significant impact on the coming year.
At the end of this interesting debate, Mr Fragakis was asked to send a message to the community, whose members missed their annual visit to the motherland.
“First of all, let me tell them that we too have missed them very much. And Greece awaits them with great joy and impatience, equivalent to theirs. We all have a very critical quarter ahead of us, where we will judge the “liberation” of our world from an invisible enemy. So stay safe and be a little patient, like all of us! And soon we will be able to travel and meet again in Greece.”