It’s due to British tourism – which the new Greek tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, described this July as her country’s “most important market” – that many of the Greek islands are even able to offer such fantastic holidays. I recently visited the Ionian island of Paxos (with our client, GIC The Villa Collection) and, by talking to the locals and reps, I learnt the extent to which Greece relies on our tourism.
Whilst in Paxos, I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Thomas, a rep who works for GIC. Thomas has worked in the tourism industry for more than 35 years; before that, his family were farmers, living off their land with very little money. As we shared a bowl of olives (see my earlier blog about my struggles with olives!) and a couple of beers, Thomas told me about Paxos, his love for the island and how British tourism has helped turn his, and many islanders’, lives around.
One comment of Thomas’ that really struck a chord with me was this: “When I was a child, my family was very poor. I don’t like looking at photos of that time; we all had hand-me-down clothes and many of us had no shoes. We could not afford to buy much, let alone plan for the future. But now, thanks to tourism, I can make plans for my retirement and for my son’s education.”
Tourism has given Thomas’ family a better quality of life, and is providing a future for his children. His daughter is a successful archaeologist, a career which must have required a great deal of investment in education, while his son is hoping to go to college soon.
Olga Kefalogianni (right) also said in a recent interview with Travel Trade Gazette that perception is “important”.
“We understand,” she went on, “that a lot of negative perception deterred visitors from coming to Greece [this year]. It is always a hospitable country and we are aiming at maintaining good quality with good service and good food.”
In my opinion, Greece always delivers. I have visited it six times now, and on each occasion I have been warmly welcomed by locals and felt privileged to sample the delicious cuisine, about which I then rave for months. With our fleeting British summer inevitably slipping through our fingers at a rate of knots, I’d love to visit Greece again this autumn. If I could, perhaps I’d check out some of the legendary places mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey on Ithaca, that I hear so much about, or simply soak up some end-of-season sun on a sandy Kefalonian beach…
Alas, work, life and limited amounts of cash prevent me from taking back-to-back holidays year-round! But please, if you are planning an autumn holiday, do help support our fellow Europeans’ economy and get out to Greece yourself!