Promoting this ‘value for money’ destination is Elena Kountoura, Minister of Tourism, Greece, who was in India recently to boost tourist footfalls.
Q Greece just made its debut into the Indian market. Why now? So far, travel agents and tour operators from Greece have been tapping the India market but it was an individual effort. This is the first time that the tourism ministry has entered India in a bid to have a dynamic presence here. We did this by participating in OTM in Mumbai where we met a lot of travel trade and got a taste of India. We have a new tourism policy for opening up new markets and that’s why we are visiting India. Our budget is €1 million for all new markets and India has the biggest share.
Q What will be the focus in the initial months? First, we want to spread awareness about Greece and what it has to offer. We want to introduce different destinations of Greece. One of the main aims is also to extend our touristic season to make it a year-round destination. We are also keen on inviting touristic investments. Under the EU, business or any kind of minimum investment of €2,50,000 can get the individual along with their family residency for five years in Greece. This would also allow them to travel freely to 40 other EU members. The residency can be renewed every five years. This is the lowest threshold offered by an EU country.
Q But connectivity is a problem? Yes, we do need direct flights. The joint economic committee that took place in November 2016 in India where the Deputy Minister of Greece discussed this issue and an agreement was signed between Greece and India for the airlines services. Our government is exploring the possibility of a direct flight. The two governments have already signed bilateral agreements.
Q What kind of arrivals does Greece currently get from India? In 2016, our embassy issued more than 25,000 visas but the actual number of visitors is at least three times this considering the multiple ports of entry into Greece and the multiple entry visa that Greece issues that is valid for three to five years. We are conducting a pilot programme for electronic visas which could eventually speed up time.
Q What activities can agents look forward to? We plan to take agents to Greece as well as do workshops for them in India. Of course, roadshows are an important way to bring the suppliers from Greece and buyers from India together. At OTM, we had a huge Greek delegation with 10 regions, hotels, DMCs as well as association of Greek tour operators who met their Indian counterparts here.
Q What segments are you targeting? We want to invite individuals but also families as well as groups whether it is for MICE or weddings. We have religious tourism, culture, wellness, yachting, water sports and gastronomy. Greece offers value for money. It also has ‘family hotels’ or B&Bs for budget family travel.