Greece Ministry of Tourism's Nicholas Karahalios

By Johanna Jainchill
Nicholas KarahaliosGreece's Ministry of Tourism recently revealed that U.S. arrivals to Greece had fallen over the past couple of years, even as overall visitation increased 10%. In New York this month to spread the word that Greece is safe and open for tourism, Nicholas Karahalios, general secretary of the Ministry, spoke to Destinations Editor Johanna Jainchill about improving Greece's reputation.

Q: Even today, there are stories online about protests in Greece. How do you deal with that?

Here in New York City, you had the movement with Wall Street. How did it affect tourism in New York?

Q: It became a tourist attraction.

Exactly. Even in Greece, when you have demonstrations, two hours later, people drink coffee and enjoy Constitution Square openly and without fear. Bad news always makes better news than good news, but we have started producing good news, as well. The media is blowing it out of proportion, especially the U.S. media.

Q: How are you explaining that to people in the travel industry?

We want to reverse the image we have. Riots did take place in Greece, but we have to distinguish between riots and demonstrating. People have the right to express political views even by assembling. Especially when the country is suffering such strict austerity measures.

Europeans understand that, and that's why the number of European visitors to Greece has increased despite the fact that there we are going through a [financial] crisis, despite the fact that we did no media campaign over last two years and despite the fact that Europe is going through a crisis, as well.

Q: During the same time, American tourism to Greece dropped more than 16%.

I understand that Americans are more sensitive and safety-conscious, but we have to make sure that they understand that Greece is safe. The best people to explain that are the half-million American travelers that traveled to Greece this year, the 1 million over the last couple years, and the more than 2 million over the last four years. Ask your fellow Americans, did they feel unsafe?

Q: What are you doing to win back lost visitors?

We are creating think tanks in Athens and the U.S. to get more ideas. We want out-of-the-box thinking to reverse this situation. We are talking to people in the tourism industry and also out of the industry to give us ideas. We do what might seem evident for American standards but not Greek standards, until now. In the past, we didn't use any market research. What we did was based on intuition. This was a not a professional approach. We are becoming professional once again. Despite the fact that our budget is limited, we will do market research to have a more targeted reach to our audience and to create a new segment of the market.

Q: What new market segment are you looking to attract?

People 25 to 35, the "millennium generation." They are affluent, use digital media, want to have fun, and they are not only interested in the antiquities. We have a traditional market composed of Greek Americans and Americans of some age who come for the culture and experience. We want to attract the millennium generation to come to have fun, enjoy extreme sports, enjoy different sorts of cuisines, who want to get in touch with modern Greek culture, not only Greek heritage. And to spend more money.

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw. 
This page is protected by Copyright laws. Do Not Copy. Purchase Reprint
blog comments powered by Disqus

View Comment Guidelines

Please upgrade your Flash Player.
Please upgrade your Flash Player.

Travel Weekly Poll


  • Consumer media discover that travel agents do exist

    "Contrary to some thoughts, travel agents do exist ... We are usually able to get clients better prices, and we know we can see that clients have better experiences. And as our personal motto is: Our Service Travels With You."


TW Index: Most Active Stocks

Latest Top News:
Travel Weekly is on Facebook
Viewpoints For Travel Agents
Travel Weekly Topics