Eat, pray, cure: Greece develops new forms of tourism
Greece is experiencing a tourist boom, the number of international tourist arrivals increased from 14.9 million in 2009 to 24.8 million in 2016. The number of international tourist arrivals is expected to exceed a record 27 million in 2017, Greece Tourism Minister Elena Kontoura said at the World Travel Market event in London. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the contribution of tourism
Greece is traditionally considered a beach holiday destination. Tourist arrivals are highest during the warm months of the year (from April through November), but authorities are hoping to make the country popular all year round.
“What most visitors do not know – and this is part of our new tourism policy and our promotional plan abroad, – is that many destinations are ideal to visit 12 months a year, and each period have to offer different experiences”, Ms Kountoura said in an interview to TUI Group.
An important feature of the policy is the development of new types of tourism that would not only attract beach holiday lovers.
According to a survey by the European Commission among EU citizens, almost 50% of respondents were considering receiving medical treatment abroad. The most popular treatments and procedures are physiotherapy, orthopaedic surgery, hemodialysis, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, prenatal care and
The Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has included medical tourism in its list of strategic development priorities till 2021. The main advantage of Greece compared to other popular destinations is the relatively low cost of treatment. For instance, according to Greek media outlet Ekathimerini, carcinoma treatment in the United States costs about €420,000, while in Greece it does not exceed €30,000.
In autumn 2017, Athens Medical Association president George Patoulis announced the creation of the International Medical Tourism Centre. Ekathimerini reported, citing Medical School of the University of Athens professor Yiannis Tountas, that in the next decade Greece could bring in some €2 billion euros from medical tourism with the arrival of 400,000 patients. One of the implemented initiatives is the launch of an online platform to help international patients make appointments with Greek doctors. It provides users with information on medical centres, staff, treatment procedures, pricing, as well as transfer and interpreter services.
Pilgrimage tourism is more regular than any other. Annually, about 330 million people visit sacred sites in the country, making Greece one of the most popular pilgrimage tourist destinations. Six cultural sites are on the UNESCO list:
- Meteora monasteries;
- Mount Athos;
- Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni monasteries;
- paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki;
- the ancient town of Mystras; and
- the historic centre (Chora) with the Monastery
of Saint-Johnthe Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos.
There are traditional pilgrimage routes, such as the route of Paul the Apostle, starting on the Island of Samothrace and running through the cities of Kavala, Philippi, Amphipolis, Thessaloniki, Veroia, Athens and ending in Corinth, where a church dedicated to him is located.
Previously, pilgrimage tourism developed independently in Greece, but today it is supported at the state level. The government has identified three potential areas for the development of faith tourism:
- Digitalisation and visualisation of cultural sites (e.g. the creation of virtual museums and 3D tours).
- The management of pilgrimage sites, including service quality enhancement and infrastructure modernisation.
- The creation of thematic products and organisation of events related to the Church of Greece (e.g. religious cruises).
In an interview with the Izvestia newspaper, Nathanial, the Metropolitan of Kos and Nisiros said he had сreated a detailed map of the local churches (more than 400 in total). According to him, the guide to the sacred sites will attract more visitors. Another initiative, which is already being brought to life, is the opportunity to make the Hippocratic Oath at the ruins of the Asclepeion, on the Island of Kos, the birthplace of the famous physician.
According to UNWTO, tourists spend more than
Greek cuisine is popular worldwide for its simple and healthy nature. The country is also known for its fresh and
Tour operators offer a range of gourmet trips, catering to their growing popularity. Tez Tour Greece managing director Dimitris Charitidis said the demand for such trips grew by 53% among Russian tourists in 2016 from the year before. A popular activity among tourists is to hunt for truffles in Crete – participants search for the valuable fungus with a trained dog and enjoy an exquisite dinner featuring dishes with truffles after the excursion.
Elena Izyumova, Tranio
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