Greek tourism minister touts natural beauty

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 21, 2015 - 20:32
  • Updated : Jun 23, 2015 - 09:56

Visiting all of Greece’s turquoise seas, picturesque islands, lush mountains, ancient monuments and public festivals would take a lifetime, even for Greeks. 

As the birthplace of democracy and philosophy, and now a thriving tourism nation of natural and cultural riches, Greece supplies endless wonders to its visitors.

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura came to Korea last week to promote her country’s tourism, as it seeks to provide year-round services.

“Korea has a very special place in my heart because my father was a Korean War veteran,” Kountoura told The Korea Herald at the 2015 Korea Travel Fair at Coex in Seoul. “I am very proud to come back to Korea (for the first time) since 2006, this time as a tourism minister.”

Kountoura started her career as a Greek national athlete for track and field, having won numerous national and international competitions. From 1984 to 1996, she worked as a fashion model in Paris for the likes of Serge Loutins and Shiseido.

(From left) The general secretary of the Greek National Tourism Organization Panos Liuadas, Greek tourism minister Elena Kountoura, Greek Ambassador Dionisios Sourvanos and the embassy minister counsellor Athanassios Karapetsas pose in front of a national booth at the 2015 Korea Travel Fair at Coex in Seoul on June 12. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

She was elected to the Greek Parliament in 2004, and served as the chairman of the Greece-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Kountoura met Korean Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sports Kim Jong-deok, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Park Sung-choon, Korean Air Lines chairman Cho Yang-ho and officials of the Korea Association of Travel Agents.

Greece offers a wide variety of tourism options ― cruises, ecotourism, heritage, art and theater, medical and cosmetic surgery, business conferences and leisure and sports ― according to the minister.

“We have everything to offer. Our diverse options can satisfy your every desire. Discovering all our beauties takes a lifetime even for a Greek,” she said.

Greece has a vibrant tourism season from May to October, with tourism making up over 20 percent of the country’s annual revenue. Last year, the industry had a record number of 23 million visitors, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

Direct flights from Korea to Greece will be available once a week on Korean Air from July to late August.

Regarding the impact that Greece’s possible exit from the European Union might have on its tourism, Kountoura said: “Tourism unites peoples and countries. The EU negotiations will not have a major impact on our tourism. An honest and fair agreement is the desire of both Greece and Europe.”

She added that German tourists made up the largest source of inbound travelers to her country, and they make deep connections and friendships with locals.

Greece has 2,000 islands of which only 400 are developed for tourism. It is a major international cruise destination along with Caribbean countries, having major cruise-ship ports in Athens, Santorini and Crete.

Athens, one of the world’s oldest cities stretching back 3,400 years, is now a sprawling metropolis with hotels, subways, entertainment and shopping centers. A large part of the city’s historic center Attica was converted to a pedestrian zone ― Grand Promenade ― connected to key archaeological sites.

Athens is full of chic districts and streets for shopping ― Ermou, Kolonaki and Voukourestiou. It has more than 180 theaters for music and dance performances, as well as ancient and modern dramas.

Having a conference next to the Aegean Sea’s golden beaches, classical buildings, modern museums, night clubs and boutique shops “combines business and pleasure,” according to Greece’s Ministry of Tourism.

Greek cuisine is famous worldwide for its ambrosial tastes, made with healthy ingredients from the sea. Lamb souvlaki, feta cheese, tomatoes and olive oil, fish roe, herb and cheese pie and red wine are some of the most popular Greek dishes. 

By Joel Lee