Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias noted the popularity of the Greek islands among Turkish citizens and announced the preparation of a winter religious cruise to Jerusalem.
In an interview with Action 24 Press, Mr. Kikilias spoke about the measures being taken to stimulate religious tourism in Greece:
“We agreed with His Holiness the Archbishop, His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Jerome and his assistants on how we will “illuminate” the Orthodox Byzantine churches in Athens and northern Greece, with Mount Athos as the head. We are developing religious tourism on our islands and in the border regions with their beautiful chapels, where our religion has been linked to our culture and history for centuries to attract more travelers during off-season periods.”
Mr. Kikilias said that the Ministry of Tourism will soon conclude an agreement with a large company for a religious cruise that will depart from Piraeus. Negotiations in this direction are close to completion:
“First they (the cruisers, approx. ed.) come to Athens, then they will visit some islands in the Aegean Sea and our Cyprus, then they will arrive in Israel to go to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. We are now planning a winter religious cruise.”
He emphasized that the cruise route, which this year began in March and will end in December, will be extended in 2023 and will become 12 months long.
Regarding Greek-Turkish relations and their impact on tourism, the minister stressed that the defense of the homeland and the policy of containment are of paramount importance. And he noted that, despite the rhetoric of the leadership of their country, tourists from Turkey are happy to visit the Greek islands for recreation:
“In Mytilene, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros, Rhodes, Halki, Symi and Kastelorizo, Turkish tourists come every day on daily boats, leave their foreign currency, eat in our restaurants and enjoy the beauty of the Greek islands.”
He talked about the strategy and hard work that preceded the autumn and winter, “efforts that are already bearing fruit since the spring.” He said that as a result, this year’s tourist season appears to be successful, based on data to date. However, he added that the tourism product is unstable to any external factors, so “we will draw conclusions at the end of 2022.”