Interview with the Regional Governor of Attica, Mr. George Patoulis:
“Tourism development in Attica is at the heart of our efforts.”
1. Mr. Patoulis, what are the economic prospects from the growth of tourism in Attica?
The economic growth of Attica, especially following the shock caused by the recent pandemic, will come through full exploitation of its strategic advantages. Prominent among these advantages is its tourist product, which is now gaining new dimensions in the environment of the contemporary market.
The great challenge for the Region’s administration is how to make Attica a safe tourist destination that is very popular with global visitors. Our goal is to promote the identity of this unique tourist destination, which can give its visitors limitless and high-quality choices on all levels, twelve months a year.
2. How is the Region’s strategic planning being reshaped following the problems that the pandemic created for global tourism?
The new conditions created by the coronavirus threat made it imperative that we protect Attica from harm in terms of public health. Our effort in this area is under way and has so far produced excellent results.
Based on this notion, we are creating a strong brand and redefining the tourism identity of all of Attica, highlighting its true nature: an eternal metropolis of the world, with a strong historical heritage, and at the same time a modern, cosmopolitan destination that can satisfy the desires of even the most demanding visitors, offering them security and many high-quality options at a very competitive price.
In the past year, the Region’s strategy focused on the challenges of Digital Tourism, as well as on the new options for modern travellers, as these are taking shape heading towards the post-Covid era, so that the evaluation of the new state of affairs will give the opportunity for tourism to come back to life and for Attica to win a place among the most popular international destinations.
3. Which forms of tourism can perform the best?
The recent crisis has also proven that, in spite of the fact that tourism is one of the main pillars of Greece’s GDP, our one-sided dependence on recreation holds many risks that can be very damaging to the Greek economy.
For the Region of Attica, strengthening thematic tourism is a key axis of our new strategic development plan. This is why we are capitalising on our tourism product as a tool for permanent economic and business development, which will serve as a power multiplier, creating conditions for progress and prosperity for the residents of Attica, while at the same time promoting our positive image globally in the best possible way.
4. What are the main “pillars” of your tourism policy?
We have drawn up an integrated plan that provides for the utilisation of every available financial resource and for synergies with private investors who trust the “Attica product”.
In this direction, we are implementing projects that strengthen Attica’s “green character” and promote a sustainable and environmentally friendly development model. Our environmental policies focus on investing in Blue Growth, with emphasis on promoting the coastal front and capitalising on the “Riviera” and islands in the investment environment, as an integrated plan has been formulated for sea tourism.
We are expanding the Piraeus Cruise terminal southward to create two next-generation cruise berths with a capacity of 2,500 passengers – a project with a budget of €120 million, which is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the 2014-2020 Attica Regional Operational Programme. The emblematic redevelopment project in Faliro Bay will create added value on the coastal front, boosting growth and opportunities for strengthening entrepreneurship.
We are showcasing our cultural heritage, both ancient and modern, by implementing emblematic projects that add significant value to the cultural capital, tourism product and economy of Attica. We are planning the development of cultural routes, the creation of networks of archaeological sites and museums, and the connection of the scattered monuments of Attica basin. Through constant work, we have leveraged significant sums from the European Development Fund for the restoration of archaeological sites, monuments of ancient and modern history, and the restoration and delivery to the public of important landmarks and cultural sites of Attica, which either underperformed or remained unused for years.
At the same time, we are highlighting our Region’s comparative advantages in terms of its natural beauty, through major projects and interventions to improve infrastructure, sea and road transport, reshaping coastal fronts, improving accessibility to sites of high tourism interest.
5. You have often lauded the multiple benefits that will accrue from the growth of health tourism. What are the Region’s initiatives in this direction?
One of Attica’s major advantages – but one that has not been sufficiently exploited to date – is its potential for health tourism development.
As a region, over the past two years, we have developed important initiatives in this direction, with the aim of creating investment opportunities, bringing together Greek and foreign organisations and helping them network.
The results of international surveys show that Attica can prove to be an ideal destination for global health tourists, as it can easily provide them with a comprehensive safety package for all the health services they wish to receive. Attica currently has everything it needs to develop this sector: high-quality medical personnel, modern and certified health infrastructure (private and public), quality medical services at competitive prices, excellent hotel infrastructure.
It is important to stress that, due to the dynamic of this particular sector, major investments are currently under way that will allow us to further upgrade the already very high level of services that we can offer.
All of the above, in combination with the excellent climate, the Mediterranean sun and the security our country offers its visitors on all levels, can make health tourism a comparative advantage for Attica, allowing it to claim a large piece of the global pie of this market. Health tourism is a powerful asset for us, as it can add some €13.6 billion to the country’s GDP and create 173,000 new jobs over a period of five years.
The first step in this sector was taken a few months ago, in the spring, with the signing of the memorandum of cooperation between ELITOUR and Enterprise Greece, within the framework of which major partnerships are promoted for the promotion of health tourism, providing industry entrepreneurs with new prospects through the creation of investment opportunities, contact with innovative practices, and the networking of Greek and foreign organisations.
6. Are you optimistic that this summer will be a win for us?
This summer’s bet is still open, but the Region of Attica seems to be a step ahead, with a clear central goal: to give international tourists and foreign investors the sense of Attica as an extremely privileged location close to the famous Greek islands, which is also a wider investment area with a specialised human resources network.