By Apostolos Zoupaniotis,Publisher/Editor of “Greek News”
Greek News is launching on Monday, May 20th, its 10th campaign to boost Greek tourism; until July 22nd and for 10 weeks our print edition and our electronic issue www.greeknewsonline.com will host messages by Greek and American public officials, leaders of major Greek-American organizations and executives of the tourism industry, who will be inviting Greek-Americans and Philhellenes to visit Greece this summer.
This is a campaign we have initiated on May 2010, after massive booking cancelations followed the tragic Marfin events. Having confidence in both the strength and the capabilities of the Greek-American Community, as well as its patriotism, we addressed the members of our community with a free campaign, inviting them to help Greece at that critical time and reverse the negative climate in the easiest and fastest way: with hard tourist currency. Our lonely voice was joined by thousands of others, reproducing our campaign message “We love Greece – We Help Greece: This Summer we go to Greece”. Many other Diaspora media began their own campaigns and eventually all became aware that Tourism can offer relief to the Greek people who suffered from the economic crisis.
There were few who even mocked our effort, saying that “the Greeks would visit anyway Greece in the summer”; some others saw the campaign’s success as an opportunity of similar private business endeavors; but the Greek News campaign was the only one that lasted in time because it was patriotic and voluntary and its color was the blue of Greece and not the green of the U.S. Dollar.
When we started in 2010, the number of visitors from the US was barely 300,000. Breaking one record after another in the following years, we have reached in 2018 the record number of 1,097, 000 US visitors and revenue of over 1 billion Euros. While in 2010 there was no daily direct flight connecting U.S. and Greece (only Delta was flying non-stop daily in the summer), we now have one daily non-stop flight all year round (Emirates); this summer there are five more direct flights between Athens and New York, from Delta, Norwegian, United Airways. At the same time, American Airlines, which connects directly Athens with Philadelphia, this year will addsdirect flights from Athens to Chicago.
In total, 33 million international arrivals in Greece, along with the cruise – 9 million more than 2014 – and an increase in revenues to 18.5 billion Euros were recorded last year.
Tourism is a national issue for Greece because it is the country’s heavy industry; there is no space for partisanship and petit-politics. We were pleased to learn in 2015 that Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura retained – for more than 6 months – Panos Livadas, a very talented and worthy government official of Samaras and Karamanlis governments, as GNTO Secretary General, following the change of government.
Elena Kountoura as Tourism Minister was crucial in accomplish the miracle that Greece has achieved in the past 4 years. We also note the important contribution of Deputy Minister Lefteris Kretsos, who pushed for measures to attract film productions to Greece, because they are a huge advertisement for the country; the former director of GNTO in North America Greta Kamaterou, who worked tirelessly to open new tourist markets in America; executives of the tourism industry, as Peter Vlitas, an informal consultant and confident of all Greek Tourism ministers in the past decade, especially on the issue of airliners.
Our 10th “Go to Greece” Campaign starts with messages from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Tourism Minister Thanassis Theocharopoulos, Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, GNTO Secretary General Konstantinos Tsegas, Consul General Dr. Konstantinos Koutras and an interview with the former Tourism Minister, Elena Kountoura. They will all tell you why you should visit Greece; but there are still 1,097,000 more reasons to do so, equal to the number of last year’s US visitors.
Let’s go to Greece this summer; because we love the homeland of our ancestors and we want to help; because Greece is beautiful and because we want ourselves and our children to keep strong bonds with the homeland.