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GreeceMitsotakis at Rhodes forum: 'Greece is the best tourist destination in the...

Mitsotakis at Rhodes forum: ‘Greece is the best tourist destination in the world’

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Greece is “the best tourist destination in the world,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a discussion with Luis Araujo, president of the European Travel Commission, during the forum “EU Tourism: Resilience in the Era of the Climate Crisis”, held on the recently fire-stricken island of Rhodes. The Greek prime minister attended and addressed the forum on Monday evening.

Among others, he spoke about the government’s civil protection policy, its policies for an environmentally sustainable tourism industry, as well as the efforts to extend the tourism season, while ensuring that prosperity from growth was faily distributed, with good wages in the tourism sector.

Referring to the devastating wildfire that had swept across Rhodes the previous summer, he said the island had managed to recover “incredibly quickly”. This reflected both the response of central government and of regional and local authorities, he added, as well as the way that the tourism industry and local community of Rhodes had come together to support visitors during those difficult moments.

“Essentially, they used this crisis as an opportunity, more or less, to change the image of Rhodes to that of a resilient island. I consider that this is a very, very important issue,” Mitsotakis said.

He then outlined the government’s measures in response to the climate crisis, noting that “the Mediterranean as a whole is a hotspot for climate change,” which would bring a greater number of fires, floods and extreme phenomena.

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“We know, of course, that these natural disasters will occur with ever greater frequency, which means that we must reinforce the civil protection mechanism as a whole. As a country, we are investing more than two billion euros on civil protection,” he said, while stressing that the top priority was protecting human lives. He explained that this meant ensuring the safe evacuation of people, as had been done on Rhodes the previous summer, when 25,000 visitors had been removed to safety under complex conditions.

Mitsotakis went on to outline the efforts to introduce innovative cyclical economy solutions in Greece and turn the country into a “workshop” for best practices. He pointed out that these were not always related to lowering carbon emissions but also, in relation to the resilience of the tourism industry, to protecting the environment and biodiversity.

“Next week we are hosting a major international conference in Greece, the ‘Our Ocean Conference’, where we expected the private sector to make specific commitments and specific promises on how we can protect our marine biodiversity,” he said.

The prime minister also stressed the need for local communities to support efforts for sustainable growth and the climate for their success, adding that this depended on creating more wealth.

“[The government’s] job is to distribute this wealth fairly. In the case of Rhodes, for example, this means ensuring the most basic parameter, that owners and operators pay good wages,” he added.

He also referred to the government’s efforts to prevent excessive construction in unspoilt locations, in order to preserve and protect them in the long term, and the efforts to extend the tourist season by offering alternative experiences to ‘off-season’ visitors.

“I believe we have only scratched the surface of what Greece can do in terms of specialised forms of tourism. One of the big priorities of the ministry responsible is to send a message to visitors of the many other things that they can do in Greece…” Mitsotakis added, noting that the focus was now shifting from the number of visitors arriving to how much revenue they brought.

“One can envision a future where you have fewer tourists who spend more money. It might possibly be better from an economic standpoint, certainly from an environmental standpoint,” he said.

The European elections are important for our common future

The Greek prime minister was also asked about the upcoming European Parliament elections, where he stressed the need to explain to voters that “what is happening in Brussels or Strasbourg, in Europe, in European institutional bodies, has real importance for them.”

“I believe we must explain to the citizens, using simple language, why the election of serious individuals to the next European Parliament is important, why the green transition is important and why the rate of the green transition is also important. Because, at the end of the day, we cannot impose burdens on small and medium enterprises or our farmers that make it truly difficult for them to respond to them in the short term,” he said.

“My appeal for the European elections is always the same: we have a rise in populism everywhere in Europe. We had our own experience with populism in Greece and it was not good for the country. This is one of the reasons why we were elected as a government in 2019 and re-elected with a higher percentage in 2023. Consequently, the election of capable people and a vote for serious parties that can offer real solutions to real problems is important,” Mitsotakis concluded.

SOURCE; ANA-MPA

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