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Greece takes Turkey's place for Israel tourists

Israel forget about Turkey and visit Greece

Sep 08, 2010

Pavlos Geroulanos meets with Israeli counterpart, tells Ynet 'there are touristic parameters on which Turkey cannot compete with us'

"I believe that Greece offers richer tourism items than Turkey," Greek Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos told Ynet in a special interview held in Tel Aviv in which he addressed the crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations.

July sees 72% drop in Israeli travelers to Antalya / Yasmine Gil, Calcalist
According to Israel Airports Authority data, Greece is main beneficiary from situation, with 75% increase in Israeli tourists, compared to July 2009. Last month also saw 31% rise in Israeli travelers to Bulgaria, only 4% increase in travels to Cyprus

The increasingly friendly relations with Greece are warming up, even with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the country a few weeks ago. Geroulanos' visit is meant to encourage the growing tourism cooperation between the two countries. On Monday, Geroulanos had lunch with his Israeli counterpart Minister Stas Misezhnikov and later met with Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.

Geroulanos was also hosted by the Israel Hotel Association at a Rosh Hashana reception during which he will meet main hoteliers and leaders in the Israeli tourism industry.

'You like Greek music; we like Amos Oz'
"There is a large and important Jewish community in Thessaloniki," said Geroulanos. "Therefore, we chose to make touristic and cultural cooperation with Israel in everything surrounding museums, film festivals, and the rest of the institutions related to these fields."

The Greek tourism ministry decided to run a special program in which a different country or region is given a touristic and cultural spotlight. The first year highlights the Middle East, including Israel, with the objective of finding areas in which Israelis and Arabs share things in common and can cooperate.

'Cooperation with Israel is important to us.' Geroulanos (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)

"We want to have a cultural exchange in order to strengthen ties between countries," explained the Greek minister. "Cooperation with Israel is very important to us. There is an important interest for the two peoples to visit one another – you like Greek music, and we like Amos Oz."

Do you believe you can act as a tourism replacement for Turkey?

"Our big problem facing Turkey is that we are members of the European Union and our currency is the euro. Despite this, I think the hotels in Greece can compete one to one with the hotels in Turkey. There are touristic parameters in which Turkey cannot compete with us. Greece offers items that Turkey does not have, like an ancient culture and tradition that is thousands of years old and a broad range of activities, and not just sunbathing. Therefore, Israelis have a lot to do in Greece, and I call upon them to come."

Does Greece have a special interest in entering the Israeli market following the Turkish crisis?

"I don't think it is related to your situation with Turkey. We are interested in strengthening ties between the two countries for the future, and not necessarily because of what is happening now."

How has the financial crisis in Greece affected the country's tourism?

"At first, we thought it would be a bad year for tourism. Prices dropped and the sector was hurt, but ultimately we saw a better tourism season than we expected. The low prices prompted many investors, including Israelis, to come and invest in Greece's hotels and other pieces of real estate."

Why isn't there a lot of Greek tourism to Israel?

"There is tourism to Israel, but not enough. It is mainly religious tourism to the holy sites, but I hope with the tightening of relations, other tourists will come."

What do Greeks think of the Israeli tourist?

"Look, we are very similar in a lot of ways. Even if there are disturbances made by young people every so often, it is negligible. It is best to focus on the needs of the general public. There are 16 million tourists to Greece per year, most of them British and German. As such, a few abnormal incidents don't have much of an effect."

This is Geroulanos' first visit to Israel as the tourism minister, a post he entered just 10 months ago. He returned to Greece on Tuesday. Israeli tourism to Greece this year tripled, among other things because of the crisis with Turkey.

Israel forget about Turkey and visit Greece
Cooperation with Israel is important to us.' Geroulanos

Source: ynet

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