Having taken a top title at the annual World Travel Awards Grand Final, Breaking Travel News here chats with Greek minister of tourism, Harry Theocharis, to find out how it feels to have won
Harry Theocharis: It is a great honour and a recognition of the hard work we did this season, under very strenuous circumstances, risk and uncertainty.
This year proved the opposite of that expected, the most difficult season for global tourism in the last decade.
My goal as minister of tourism in Greece, from the beginning of the pandemic crisis, was to ensure that our country will open to tourists with safety.
Safeguarding the health of tourists as well as of locals has been and will continue to be our number one priority as we are now preparing for the recovery season of 2021.
Thanks to our coordinated efforts and the strategy that Greece followed, we welcomed more than six million foreign visitors during a very short four-month season, and everyone went home healthy and safe.
Our vision for 2021 is to remain a top safe destination, offering unique experiences to visitors.
BTN: How useful are the World Travel Awards when it comes to promoting Greece to a global hospitality audience?
HT: Visibility built on results and effectiveness such as the World Travel Awards offer is now more than ever a powerful tool in promoting our destination.
Thank you for awarding our organisation for the successful efforts in safely opening Greece to tourism during 2020.
This recognition ignites our will and commitment to offer visitors a unique and safe travel experience in 2021.
BTN: It has been a challenging year for hospitality across Europe and, indeed, around the world. What do you think caught the eye of voters at this difficult time?
HT: Undoubtedly Greece did a very good job in handling the health crisis caused by the pandemic.
Our government’s pre-emptive lockdown strategy early on and the meticulous measures and protocols that we put in place in order to open the country to tourism paid off.
In practice, as actual visitors enjoyed their stay safely in Greece, this also significantly enhanced our country’s brand image as a top global destination.
It is no coincidence that this year Greece returned to the top-five global tourism brands according to Ipsos survey, among 50 countries.
BTN: Does the prospect of a vaccine for Covid-19 inspire confidence in the Greek tourism sector that the journey back to normality can begin as we look to 2021?
HT: We expect 2021 to be a year of recovery, as people more than ever have the desire to travel.
To make this desire and actual decision, several factors need to combine: the vaccine and possible effective medication, financial recovery of the markets and of course a common set of rules for travelling, at least within Europe, clear to everyone and agreed by all the stakeholders.
From our side, we are working closely with all the bodies pushing towards this direction, as it is the only viable option if we want tourism to make a comeback in 2021.
Greece is at the forefront of this effort and I am confident that next year will be a recovery season for our tourism and a safe, rewarding season for our visitors.
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) is a public body under the supervision of the ministry of tourism.
It is considered the governmental board for the promotion of tourism in Greece.
Its main mission is to develop and promote the Greek tourism product through the implementation of promotional tourism campaigns both in Greece and abroad.
Find out more on the official website.