Greece wel­comes more Chi­nese vis­i­tors

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - EMBASSY - The ar­ti­cle is an abridged state­ment from the Greek Min­is­ter of Tourism Elena Koun­toura Page Edi­tor: zhangxinyuan@ glob­al­times.com.cn

Greece and China are two of the most an­cient civ­i­liza­tions, both of which boast long his­to­ries and a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on the West and the East.

We en­joy warm re­la­tions, friend­ship and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween our peo­ple that cher­ish the im­por­tance of cul­tural her­itage. Our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have en­tered a new era. We are build­ing a strong strate­gic re­la­tion­ship. This is the re­sult of our mu­tual strong will on a top po­lit­i­cal level.

It was sealed dur­ing the two of­fi­cial vis­its of the Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras to China in July 2016 and May 2017, and his meet­ings with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Premier Li Ke­qiang. There has been a se­ries of ex­changes of of­fi­cial vis­its by top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and sev­eral busi­ness mis­sions be­tween our two coun­tries to strengthen re­la­tions at all lev­els.

We have also had im­por­tant vis­its of Chi­nese of­fi­cials to Greece. Most re­cently, I had the plea­sure of meet­ing a mem­ber of the Po­lit­i­cal Bu­reau of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) and sec­re­tary of the CPC Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee Cai Qi, in Athens.

We have a thriv­ing Chi­nese com­mu­nity in Athens and large-scale in­vest­ments by lead­ing Chi­nese groups, such as COSCO’s in­vest­ment in the port of Pi­raeus, the main gate­way and port for trade and tourism in Europe. We are en­cour­ag­ing the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties of our coun­tries to ex­plore and take ad­van­tage of the new op­por­tu­ni­ties in all pro­duc­tive sec­tors, which will cre­ate mu­tual ben­e­fits. We have al­ready seen sig­nif­i­cant re­sults, and a num­ber of key bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments have been signed.

From our three-year ac­tion plan for bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, strate­gic projects have emerged in the fields of in­fras­truc­ture, trans­port, en­ergy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. At the same time, we have greatly ex­panded the op­por­tu­ni­ties to work to­gether in very dy­namic ar­eas such as bank­ing and fi­nance, trade, agri­cul­ture, cul­ture and tourism.

We are ac­tive sup­port­ers of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and have em­braced pro­grams, ac­tions and ini­tia­tives that bring to life the great vi­sion of this en­deavor. Last year, we cel­e­brated the Greece-China Year of Cul­tural Ex­change, which brings our peo­ple closer.

China sup­ported and par­tic­i­pated with six other coun­tries in our ini­tia­tive for the Fo­rum of An­cient Civ­i­liza­tions in Athens.

This year, we are com­mit­ted to fur­ther pro­mot­ing tourism as we cel­e­brate the EU-China tourism year. We will strengthen our in­ter­na­tional role in global de­ci­sion-mak­ing to shape a sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive tourism growth. We are very pleased that Greece was elected as a mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Board of the United Na­tions World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion for 2018-21 dur­ing its gen­eral as­sem­bly in Chengdu in 2017.

In Oc­to­ber, Greece will host the in­ter­na­tional meet­ing of the United Na­tions World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion for tourism on the Silk Road. It is a ma­jor driv­ing force for co­op­er­a­tion, growth and pros­per­ity. It is also a bridge for new projects and part­ner­ships in a num­ber of pro­duc­tive sec­tors.

Greece, a mem­ber of the Euro­pean fam­ily, has a strate­gic po­si­tion as a gate­way to Europe. Tourism has emerged as a pros­per­ous field of new op­por­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate. Over the last three years, we have im­ple­mented our na­tional tourism pol­icy to es­tab­lish Greece as an at­trac­tive year-round tourist des­ti­na­tion. We in­creased in­bound tourism by 25 per­cent with growth rates that are more than 7 per­cent higher than the global av­er­age. In 2017, we had 30 mil­lion tourists in Greece, and 2018 is an amaz­ing year with an im­pres­sive dou­ble-digit growth from all of our for­eign mar­kets. In ad­di­tion, 3 mil­lion air­line seats have been added to our re­gional air­ports.

China is an im­por­tant mar­ket for us, and we have im­ple­mented a very dy­namic plan to show­case all the op­por­tu­ni­ties and ad­van­tages to pro­mote travel and tourism. Through our joint ac­tion plan that started in 2016, one of our main goals was to up­grade air con­nec­tiv­ity, which is key for tourism growth.

The Athens-Bei­jing year­round flight launched last Septem­ber has been a great suc­cess in in­creas­ing tourism. In 2017, we ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease of 35 per­cent in tourism ar­rivals in Greece from China and for 2018, we have had more than a 50 per­cent in­crease.

Greece is an es­tab­lished tourist des­ti­na­tion and a very safe, friendly coun­try known for its warm hos­pi­tal­ity. After all, Greece is the largest and most di­verse com­plex of is­lands in the Mediter­ranean and Europe with the long­est coast­line.

Cul­tural tourism is the pro­tag­o­nist. The Chi­nese peo­ple have a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for our cul­tural her­itage. We in­vite our Chi­nese friends to visit our 18 UNESCO World Her­itage Sites and choose from among more than 100 ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and 500 mu­se­ums. We also want to in­vite Chi­nese guests to par­tic­i­pate in in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals for cul­ture, tra­di­tion and gas­tron­omy and ex­pe­ri­ence ma­jor sports events such as the Au­then­tic Marathon.

Greece is an ideal des­ti­na­tion for sea tourism with 42 unique cruise des­ti­na­tions, of which 10 are top choices in­ter­na­tion­ally for lux­ury hol­i­days. We pro­mote yacht­ing and the great ser­vices of­fered in 153 tourist ports as well as div­ing in our safe, crys­tal-clear blue wa­ters to view our natural un­der­wa­ter trea­sures.

Greece is also a world­fa­mous des­ti­na­tion for high-end va­ca­tions in mod­ern lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels and re­sorts as well as bou­tique ho­tels.

All of Greece, with its breath­tak­ing land­scapes and its magic light, is an ideal set­ting for film­ing through­out the year. We have had sev­eral ma­jor Chi­nese pro­duc­tions of suc­cess­ful TV shows, movies and doc­u­men­taries shot in Greece, such as

Bei­jing Love Story (2014) and The Ra­di­ance of the Aegean (2016).

At the same time, we pro­mote in­te­grated the­matic tourist prod­ucts fo­cused on au­then­tic the­matic ex­pe­ri­ences, such as health and wellness. Greece, like China, has a long medical tra­di­tion. It is the home­land of Hip­pocrates (460-370BC), the father of mod­ern medicine, who pro­moted longevity, well-be­ing and a healthy mind in a healthy body as a way of liv­ing.

The Greek main­land with more than 3,000 au­then­tic and tra­di­tional vil­lages and more than 20 ski re­sorts, in­tro­duces our vis­i­tors to the cul­ture, rich na­ture and end­less outdoor ac­tiv­i­ties in each one of our 13 di­verse re­gions.

We are pro­mot­ing all th­ese new ex­clu­sive travel ex­pe­ri­ences in our meet­ings with Chi­nese pro­fes­sion­als in tourism through co­op­er­a­tion and joint ad­ver­tise­ment pro­grams in our pro­mo­tional ac­tions in all dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional me­dia with a se­ries of trips and a very dy­namic pres­ence in in­ter­na­tional tourism ex­hi­bi­tions. I in­vite you all to visit Greece to ex­pe­ri­ence its in­cred­i­ble beauty and travel ex­pe­ri­ences that our coun­try of­fers gen­er­ously to its vis­i­tors, mak­ing them feel right at home.

Photo: Cour­tesy of Greek Em­bassy in Bei­jing

The Greek Min­is­ter of Tourism Elena Koun­toura

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