Greece’s tourism minister Olga Kefalogianni gave her first interview after being sworn in, she lays stress on significance pf increasing cooperation with Turkey in tourism noting that Greece regards Turkey not as a competitor, but as a partner in tourism.
Athens / NationalTurk – Greece’s 37-year-old Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni gave an exclusive interview to Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News reporter Barçın Yinanç in Athens after taking her oath at Greek parliament last Thursday.
Raising the level of cooperation with Turkey in tourism will be a priority for Greece, Greece’s newly appointed tourism minister told the Turkish daily, promising that the strongest efforts would be put to facilitate Turkish travel to Greece.
Greek and Turkish tourism to benefit mutually
Turkey is not seen as a competitor but as a partner in tourism, Olga Kefalogianni mentioned, who assumes Greek and Turkish tourism will benefit mutually. Greek tourism is one of the main pillars of the Greek economy, but it is also in dire straits.
A new visa regulation prompting visits to five Greek islands near the Turkish coast at the Aegean Sea that started nearly 2 weeks ago is in a trial period, stated Kefalogianni. ‘ Right now this is in a trial period. We want to see how it will function in order to implement it even more thoroughly if we have hopefully good results.’
While admitting that being a part of the European Union’s Schengen visa system is acting as an impediment keeping more visitors from coming to Greece, Kefalogianni said Greece will have to find ways to facilitate these visits within the procedures of Schengen.The lifting of visa requirements for Turkish green passport holders led to an boom of 180 % percent in the number of Turkish citizens visiting Greece in 2010. But her plans for cooperation are not limited to increasing visits. Greece and Turkey plan joint investments to joint campaigns to attract tourists from third countries according to Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni :
Greek Tourism Minister : Greece plans joint projects with Turkey
‘ For us it’s also very important to work on joint projects with Turkey. When we are talking about overseas markets, like China for example, people who would come from the other side of the world to visit our countries, it is self-evident that if we could provide a joint package this would mean joint benefits. This is definitely something we are aiming to work on and this will help the economies of both Turkey and Greece,’ she stated.
Tourism is actually a very good bridge between the two peoples, Kefalogianni said adding: “Of course there will always be political issues. We could always only see the dividing lines, but it’s much better to put effort into what can actually get us together. I think tourism is the area where we can maximize [those efforts].”
Greek Islands : Greeks from the islands and Turks from Turkish coast in contact on daily basis
Although Turkey and Greece nearly came to the brink of the war 20 years ago over sovereignty of tiny islands in the Aegean Sea, currently, the two nations enjoy very friendly relations, and especially the residents of the Greek islands very close to the Turkish coast have contact with Turkey on a daily basis, she mentioned.
In this respect she gave the example of a new marina on Lesbos, right across from the Turkish town of Ayvalık, which is operated jointly by a Turkish conglomerate and a Greek company in cooperation of management.
‘ This is also an example of how entrepreneurship in tourism can actually bring Greece and Turkey together.’ One of Olga Kefalogianni’s previously stated priorities is to improve the image of Greece, which has been stained by riots in protest of austerity measures and economic crisis. Greek minister also gave credit to the Turkish media, stating it did not exaggerate Greek problems.
Greece Tourism Minister Kefalogianni : Istanbul is a hub for Greek tourism
‘ Istanbul for me is actually a great example; tourism can really help economic activity. I was first in Istanbul many years ago; I was struck how quickly it evolved and how it tackled big issues as regards issues of conventions and the cruise industry. It is also a hub also for air flights with Turkish Airlines.’ the Greek Tourism minister says.