Eat, pray, heal - Greece develops new destinations for tourists

Eat, Pray, Heal - Greece Develops New Destinations for Tourists

Greece is experiencing a tourism boom: the number of arrivals of tourists from abroad increased from 14.9 million in 2009 to 24.8 million in 2016. According to the Minister of Tourism of Greece Elena Kundura, speaking at the World Travel Market in London, it is expected that the number of international arrivals in 2017 for the first time in the history of Greece will exceed 27 million. According to the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), the contribution of this sector to GDP in 2016 was 18.6%, and is projected to grow to 22.4% by 2026 - Tourism development is of decisive importance for the Greek economy.

Greece has traditionally been considered a beach destination, with tourist arrivals peaking during the warmer months from April to November. Now the authorities' efforts are aimed at making the country popular 12 months a year. “Most tourists do not know, and this is part of our new tourism policy and plan for promoting abroad, that many destinations are ideal for travel all year round, and each season offers a unique one,” says Elena Kundura in an interview with TUI Group. An important point of the policy is the development of new directions that will interest not only beach lovers.

Medical tourism

According to a study by the European Commission, almost 50% of Europeans surveyed want to be treated abroad. The most popular areas are recovery after injuries, orthopedics, renal dialysis, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, pregnancy management, artificial insemination. Most often, patients travel abroad, because the required type of treatment is not available in their home country or foreign clinics offer a higher quality.

The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has included medical tourism in the list of priority areas in the strategic development plan until 2021. The main advantage of Greece over other popular destinations is the low cost of treatment. For example, according to the Greek edition Ekathimerini, if in the United States the treatment of a cancerous tumor will cost about 420 thousand euros, then in Greece the total amount will be no more than 30 thousand. Taking into account the pleasant climate (here, on average, 300 sunny days a year and the temperature in winter is rare drops below +10 ° C) and good ecology (the number of harmful PM2 particles per square meter in Greece is two times less than in Thailand, and almost one and a half less than in Italy) Greece is becoming a competitive destination for medical tourism along with a number of such popular countries like Austria, Germany, Israel or Switzerland. Major medical centers in Greece are located on the islands of Corfu, Crete, Thessaloniki, Kalamata, Alexandroupoli and Athens.

In the fall of 2017, George Patoulis, President of the Athens Medical Association, announced the creation of the International Center for Medical Tourism in Greece. According to Ekathimerini, citing the words of Janis Tauntas, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Athens, in the next ten years Greece will be able to attract 400 thousand patients from abroad and earn 2 billion euros in this sector. One of the examples of the implemented initiatives is the launch of a portal that helps patients from other countries to sign up for treatment in Greece online. It provides users with information about medical centers, specialists working there, available treatment courses, their cost, transfer and translation services.

Religious tourism

Pilgrimage tourism is more resilient to fluctuations than any other. About 330 million people travel to holy places around the world every year. Greece is one of the most popular countries for pilgrimage tourism. Six religious cultural monuments of Greece are included in the UNESCO list:

  • Monasteries of Meteora;
  • Mount Athos;
  • Monasteries of Daphni, Osios Lucas and Nea Moni;
  • Early Christian and Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki;
  • the ancient city of Mystra;
  • the historical center (Chora) with the monastery of St. John the Evangelist and the cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos.

There are traditional pilgrimage routes, for example, the journey "in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul", which begins on the island of Samothrace and continues through the cities of Kavala, Philippi, Amphipolis, Thessaloniki, Veria, Athens and ends in Corinth, where in his honor the erected church.

If earlier pilgrimage in Greece developed independently, now this direction is supported at the state level. The government identifies three potential areas for the development of religious tourism:

  • digitalization and visualization of cultural monuments (for example, the creation of "virtual museums" and 3D tours);
  • working with the monuments themselves: improving the quality of services and modernizing infrastructure ;
  • creating themed products and organizing events related to the Greek Orthodox Church (for example, organizing religious cruises).

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