World Travel Awards 2018: Greek tourim picks up multiple awards

Greece received a series of international awards (hotels, organisations, management companies etc) at this year’s World Travel Awards (WTA), during the Grand Final Gala Ceremony 2018 which was held in the historic Pátio da Galé in Lisbon.

Hundreds of top personalities from the global travel and tourism industry attended the WTA Awards Ceremony, which has been held every year since 1993, recognising and rewarding excellence in all sectors of tourism worldwide.

Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas was awarded the title of best eco-accommodation in the world, while HotelBrain was picked as the top hotel management company for 2018.
Athens was the top city break destination in Europe and the Acropolis picked up the award as Europe’s top attraction for 2018, the Peloponnese as the best beach destination, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) as the best national tourism strategy provider, Aegean as the best regional airline and the Grand Resort Lagonissi won the first European award in the Luxury resort category and Luxury resort for wedding travel.

The following Greek companies, destinations, and hotels received European honours…

Europe’s Leading Beach Destination 2018 | Peloponnese
Europe’s Leading Beach Hotel 2018 | Porto Zante Villas & Spa
Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel 2018 | Kivotos Mykonos
Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2018 | Athena
Europe’s Leading Destination Management Company 2018 | Mideast Travel Worldwide
Europe’s Leading Hotel Management Company 2018 | HotelBrain
Europe’s Leading Luxury Island Resort 2018 | Grand Resort Lagonissi
Europe’s Leading Luxury Lifestyle Resort 2018 | Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli
Europe’s Leading Luxury Villa Resort 2018 | Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas
Europe’s Leading Luxury Wedding Resort 2018 | Grand Resort Lagonissi
Europe’s Leading National Tourism Strategy & Campaign 2018 | GNTO
Europe’s Leading New Resort 2018 | Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort
Europe’s Leading Regional Airline 2018 | Aegean Airlines
Europe’s Leading Seafront Resort 2018 | Elounda Bay Palace
Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2018 | Acropolis
Europe’s Leading Villa Resort 2018 | Porto Zante Villas & Spa

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NASA to collaborate officially with the Hellenic Space Agency

Representatives of the Hellenic Space Agency participated in the International Astronautical Congress held in Bremen.

The conference unanimously decided to cooperate with space agencies around the world to prepare and implement an international mission to the Moon.

NASA is the head of this international mission and Greece will take part in the mission demonstrating that it is an equal partner in space events and that it can promote Greek scientists and Greek academic institutions to major missions.

Source: tornosnews

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6-Year-Old Stelios Kerasidis Becomes the Youngest Greek Musician to Play at Carnegie Hall (Video)

Photos from Instagram

On Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at 8 p.m. Carnegie Hall hosted the 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards Invited Winners List. It was there, at the Weill Recital Hall that 6-year-old Stelios Kerasidis played Chopin valse la minor and became the youngest Greek musician of all time to play at Carnegie Hall. He was also awarded first prize in at the Awards.

The 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards collaborated with the renowned International Music Competition “Grand Prize Virtuoso” based in Europe, and the competition was open to all nationalities and ages in strings, piano, wind and vocal. The categories were divided into different age groups: Young Musician (8 years old and under), Junior (9 to 12 years old), Intermediate (13 to 15 years old), Advanced (16 to 18 years old) and Senior (no age limit).

After traveling from Athens, Greece to New York City, New York, Stelios Kerasidis managed to accomplish one of many landmarks in his young career and life with his performance at Carnegie Hall. Stelios has also won the prestigious first prize in the international piano competition “Citta di Spoleto” in Itlay.

Music is in Stelios’ blood, as his father is a piano soloist and teacher, and his father has said that Stelios started playing the piano when he was a baby and had his first official lesson at age three.

Now, just 3 years later, Stelios’ favorite composers are Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach. He has performed in front of audiences that most professional musicians (who are adults) can only dream of, such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, as well as playing alongside the Athenian Sinfonietta orchestra.

He became known in his native Greece when he took part in the TV show “Greece’s Got Talent”, where he demonstrated his talent and passion for the piano to an impressed audience.

Now, Stelios has an entire nation following him and cheering him on, anxious to see all that he will accomplish with his passion for music.

Check out Stelios playing Chopin valse la minor at Carnegie Hall:

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Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi

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ELECTION 2018: WHAT NOW? Greek-American elected officials, By Endy Zemenides

PART III

On more than one occasion, I have heard Greek-American voters claim that they look for Greek names on the ballot and just check the box. We are not unique in that practice – for example, having an Irish surname on a down-ballot race in Cook County, Illinois almost guarantees you election. As we are at an inflection point in our community’s history, we should consider more than ethnic pride when thinking about the Greek-Americans we are electing to office. We have been fortunate with the Hellenes we have in the United States Congress – and I wrote about them in a previous piece. Let us shift our attention to elected officials at the state and local level.

Elected officials have unique opportunities to be leaders in the Greek-American community: they have relationships with and access to colleagues in their respective congressional delegations; they can help place more Hellenes in publicly influential positions – not in the narrow patronage sense, but by endorsing them for other elected positions, backing them for board appointments, or populating their senior staff with well-qualified Greek-Americans; they can open doors for Greece and Cyprus with governors and mayors around the country, relationships that can lead to significant commercial diplomacy and sharing of best practices – especially relevant as Greece remakes its public sector and regional policies. There have been great examples of Greek-American state officials stepping up in such manners. If one wonders how members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation – including the top Democratic Senator on defense issues, Jack Reed, and one of the most pro-Hellenic members of Congress, Representative David Cicilline – became such philhellenes, we don’t have to go search beyond the late George Panichas, Rhode Island’s first Greek-American state official. Statewide officials have even greater reach and influence. When Alexi Giannoulias served as Illinois State Treasurer, the membership of Illinois members of Congress in the Hellenic caucus increased significantly, Senator Dick Durbin became much more active in Hellenic issues, and the state and local Democratic party organizations started endorsing more Greek-American candidates.

Despite efforts by Greece to organize state and local Greek-American elected officials, the above standard has not been met on even a respectable level. This “organization” makes sure these officials get to Greece, and sometimes some resolutions on religious freedom or Greek Independence Day get passed at the state level – but we have to aim higher than that. And this is where the incoming class of Greek-American state officials is promising. There is not enough space in this column to cover every local Greek-American official, but here are some who won significant races in 2018 and show special promise in helping us aim higher as a community.

Starting on the Pacific, Eleni Kounalakis became the first Greek-American female to gain statewide elected office in California, as she was convincingly elected the state’s Lieutenant Governor. Her and her family’s commitment to the Greek-American community and to Greece itself has been well established. Now she has a platform that can make an even greater impact on these fronts. Greece’s economic strategy includes developing a film industry, a more robust start up sector, and further opportunities in the renewable energy sector. Imagine what doors the Lieutenant Governor-elect can help open in Hollywood, in Silicon Valley and at some of the top solar and wind companies in the world. Furthermore, she is now an elected colleagues and political ally of the likely Speaker of the House of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi), the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee (Adam Schiff), and of a potential presidential candidate (Senator Kamala Harris).

Coming to the Midwest, we narrowly lost the chance to see the first ever Greek-American to take statewide office, as former Congressman Zack Space came up short in his bid for State Auditor. Given Ohio’s outsized role in Presidential elections, having a Greek-American statewide official (with a historically close relationship with the community) would have been a great asset in the 2020 election. Space, however, will still play a role in Ohio politics. He remains close to Senator Sherrod Brown (another potential presidential candidate), high profile Congressman Tim Ryan, will be writing a regular column in Ohio newspapers, launching a podcast, and doing grassroots organizing – all with the purpose of drawing back the FDR Democrats (that were part of his base as Congressman) to the party. In 2020, Ohio will be critical in both the Democratic primary and the general election. Space’s support could help a candidate break through to white working-class voters, and despite not gaining statewide office he remains an asset the Greek-American community should cultivate.

Ending on the East Coast, two young Greek-Americans flipped control of the New York State Senate to the Democratic Party. Andrew Gounardes has been an especially active member of the community and has already been more active in terms of advocacy on Hellenic issues than most state and local Greek-American elected officials in the United States. He knows the issues, has always shown up, and has a strong familial commitment to the Church. His new Senate colleague – jumping over from the State Assembly – is James Skoufis, who gives New York’s Greek-American community a champion outside the immediate environs of New York City. Skoufis has already enjoyed a quick rise in New York politics, and is often mentioned as a successor for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who for the past few years has appeared to be looking to move on from the House of Representatives. Together with Senator Mike Gianaris – who will soon become the second-most powerful Democrat in the state Senate – and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Gounardes and Skoufis will be part of a potentially potent Greek-American team in New York’s state capital. Combine these elected officials with George Tsunis – the chairman of the Nassau Health Care Corp and of the Battery Park City Authority, and clearly one of New York’s most important power brokers, and local officials like New York City Council member Costas Constantinides and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, there is no question that an increasingly blue New York will be guided by a new generation of Greek-American leaders.

**** Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC)

On more than one occasion, I have heard Greek-American voters claim that they look for Greek names on the ballot and just check the box. We are not unique in that practice – for example, having an Irish surname on a down-ballot race in Cook County, Illinois almost guarantees you election. As we are at an inflection point in our community’s history, we should consider more than ethnic pride when thinking about the Greek-Americans we are electing to office. We have been fortunate with the Hellenes we have in the United States Congress – and I wrote about them in a previous piece. Let us shift our attention to elected officials at the state and local level.

Elected officials have unique opportunities to be leaders in the Greek-American community: they have relationships with and access to colleagues in their respective congressional delegations; they can help place more Hellenes in publicly influential positions – not in the narrow patronage sense, but by endorsing them for other elected positions, backing them for board appointments, or populating their senior staff with well-qualified Greek-Americans; they can open doors for Greece and Cyprus with governors and mayors around the country, relationships that can lead to significant commercial diplomacy and sharing of best practices – especially relevant as Greece remakes its public sector and regional policies. There have been great examples of Greek-American state officials stepping up in such manners. If one wonders how members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation – including the top Democratic Senator on defense issues, Jack Reed, and one of the most pro-Hellenic members of Congress, Representative David Cicilline – became such philhellenes, we don’t have to go search beyond the late George Panichas, Rhode Island’s first Greek-American state official. Statewide officials have even greater reach and influence. When Alexi Giannoulias served as Illinois State Treasurer, the membership of Illinois members of Congress in the Hellenic caucus increased significantly, Senator Dick Durbin became much more active in Hellenic issues, and the state and local Democratic party organizations started endorsing more Greek-American candidates.

Despite efforts by Greece to organize state and local Greek-American elected officials, the above standard has not been met on even a respectable level. This “organization” makes sure these officials get to Greece, and sometimes some resolutions on religious freedom or Greek Independence Day get passed at the state level – but we have to aim higher than that. And this is where the incoming class of Greek-American state officials is promising. There is not enough space in this column to cover every local Greek-American official, but here are some who won significant races in 2018 and show special promise in helping us aim higher as a community.

Starting on the Pacific, Eleni Kounalakis became the first Greek-American female to gain statewide elected office in California, as she was convincingly elected the state’s Lieutenant Governor. Her and her family’s commitment to the Greek-American community and to Greece itself has been well established. Now she has a platform that can make an even greater impact on these fronts. Greece’s economic strategy includes developing a film industry, a more robust start up sector, and further opportunities in the renewable energy sector. Imagine what doors the Lieutenant Governor-elect can help open in Hollywood, in Silicon Valley and at some of the top solar and wind companies in the world. Furthermore, she is now an elected colleagues and political ally of the likely Speaker of the House of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi), the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee (Adam Schiff), and of a potential presidential candidate (Senator Kamala Harris).

Coming to the Midwest, we narrowly lost the chance to see the first ever Greek-American to take statewide office, as former Congressman Zack Space came up short in his bid for State Auditor. Given Ohio’s outsized role in Presidential elections, having a Greek-American statewide official (with a historically close relationship with the community) would have been a great asset in the 2020 election. Space, however, will still play a role in Ohio politics. He remains close to Senator Sherrod Brown (another potential presidential candidate), high profile Congressman Tim Ryan, will be writing a regular column in Ohio newspapers, launching a podcast, and doing grassroots organizing – all with the purpose of drawing back the FDR Democrats (that were part of his base as Congressman) to the party. In 2020, Ohio will be critical in both the Democratic primary and the general election. Space’s support could help a candidate break through to white working-class voters, and despite not gaining statewide office he remains an asset the Greek-American community should cultivate.

Ending on the East Coast, two young Greek-Americans flipped control of the New York State Senate to the Democratic Party. Andrew Gounardes has been an especially active member of the community and has already been more active in terms of advocacy on Hellenic issues than most state and local Greek-American elected officials in the United States. He knows the issues, has always shown up, and has a strong familial commitment to the Church. His new Senate colleague – jumping over from the State Assembly – is James Skoufis, who gives New York’s Greek-American community a champion outside the immediate environs of New York City. Skoufis has already enjoyed a quick rise in New York politics, and is often mentioned as a successor for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who for the past few years has appeared to be looking to move on from the House of Representatives. Together with Senator Mike Gianaris – who will soon become the second-most powerful Democrat in the state Senate – and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Gounardes and Skoufis will be part of a potentially potent Greek-American team in New York’s state capital. Combine these elected officials with George Tsunis – the chairman of the Nassau Health Care Corp and of the Battery Park City Authority, and clearly one of New York’s most important power brokers, and local officials like New York City Council member Costas Constantinides and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, there is no question that an increasingly blue New York will be guided by a new generation of Greek-American leaders.

**** Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC)

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Wedding tourism: Santorini among the world’s top 2019 destinations

What are the latest destination wedding and honeymoon trends as we head into 2019? Here’s what’s going on according to Renée Strauss and Pamela Strauss-Goldman, the co-founders of Wedaways.com.

Here’s what to know:

Heritage Return: one of the top initiators of a destination wedding today is what is known as “heritage return”. The wedding will often be the first opportunity a couple has to return to their land of origin (or the land of ancestry for one of the partners). This is why Ireland and Italy are incredibly popular for destination weddings.

Most Popular Wedding Destinations: the most popular wedding destinations are Tuscany, Italy; Amalfi Coast, Italy; Provence, France; Paris, France; County Kildare, Ireland; County Waterford, Ireland; Marrakech, Morocco; and Napa Valley, California.

Honeymoon Destinations Gaining In Popularity: Wedaways is seeing more and more requests for honeymoons in Marrakech, Morocco; Santorini, Greece; Algarve, Portugal; Swiss Alps.

Advance Booking: Couples are starting the booking process for a destination wedding approximately 15 months out and only 5 months out for the honeymoon.

Guests Attend Based Upon The Destination: Guests often decide to attend based upon the destination versus if they actually want to see the couple wed!

Pre-Wedding Planning Trips Are On The Rise: Couples take the time and spend the money to visit the destination and venue prior to the wedding date. They want to see and feel the overall venue experience so they can plan around it accordingly.

Wedding Guests Are Booking Pre- And Post-Wedding Stays: Because guests are traveling great distances to attend a wedding, they take advantage of the opportunity to build their own travel into the trip. Wedaways is seeing many guests either departing for the destination earlier or staying on after the event. Guests are timing a cruise to coincide with the wedding, going from the wedding to a safari, or a scenic road trip in and around the wedding destination.

Fewer Couples Want Pre-Packaged Anything: Even though a couple might be going to a hotel or resort that specializes in destination weddings and offers a wedding package, most don’t want a “cookie-cutter” experience and tend to stay away from a hotel’s “wedding package.” They seek out preferred wedding planners in the destination to ensure a truly bespoke experience.

It’s Not Just A Wedding, It’s A Multi-Day Celebration: a destination wedding is much more than just the actual wedding day. Couples are now including itineraries in the guest’s welcome bags which include details on all of the events the guests can participate in as well as suggestions and options of activities guests can do to best experience that particular destination over a few days for the wedding celebration.

Authentic Destination Guest Gifts: Couples are after authentic guest gifts which represent the destination of the wedding versus something generic. For example, for a recent wedding in Japan, one couple gave away gorgeous Japanese silk fans for their guests as a keepsake.

Read more HERE

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Election 2018: What Now? PART I: Who is moving up in the House

Gains for the Community as number of Greek Americans in Congress increased – Senator Menendez re-elected, disaster averted!

Chicago.- By Endy Zemenides

PART I: Who is moving up in the House

There was quite a bit of celebration in the Hellenic world over the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections. Kathimerini declared it a “Good Day for Hellenism in America”. Several media outlets noted the reelection of the Hellenes in the House of Representatives – Gus Bilirakis, John Sarbanes, and Dina Titus – as well of the swelling of their ranks with the election of Chris Pappas of New Hampshire to the House. Hellenes around the world were elated over the reelection of Senator Bob Menendez. And the emergence of newly elected leaders at the state level – former Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis became the first Greek-American female to be elected to statewide office (Lieutenant Governor) in California, Andrew Gounardes and James Skoufis were elected to New York State Senate, flipping control of the Senate to the Democratic Party in that State.

Was it really a good day for Hellenism in America? To answer that question, we must take a far deeper dive than anyone has yet and expand the analysis beyond the races above.

DISASTER AVERTED

In 2006, the community faced the loss of its greatest champion in Washington, D.C. – Senator Paul Sarbanes. At the PSEKA Conference after announcing his retirement, Senator Sarbanes told Greek-American leaders that there was someone more than ready to fill his shoes and that the most important thing they could do in 2006 was re-elect Bob Menendez to the US Senate. 12 years and a few election cycles later, that admonition stayed true. Most of the community and too many in Greece were far too casual about the prospect of losing Senator Menendez – a champion who has played a disproportionate role in laying the foundations for the successes the Hellenic agenda is realizing in Washington today. Fortunately, enough of us were vigilant and Bob Menendez was ultimately reelected by a comfortable margin. He remains the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the country’s most influential policy makers when it comes to American foreign policy.

We experienced another flash of danger when Congressman Gus Bilirakis – co-chairman both the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance (CHIA) Caucus – faced a surging challenger. Again, just enough Hellenes rallied and Congressman Bilirakis was able to put away his challenger early Tuesday evening.

These two examples should serve as cautionary tales. Unfortunately, not enough people in the diaspora and certainly not enough in Greece and Cyprus fully appreciate what a catastrophe losing either of these members of Congress would have been. Especially in Greece and Cyprus there is a tremendous underappreciation of the role of Congress in American foreign policy. Since both Athens and Nicosia have often declared their intention to emulate the model of Israel and the pro-Israel community in the US, they should start with understanding and interacting with Congress much better than they ever have. So, let’s turn to the incoming Congress.

Hellenism and the 116th Congress

On January 3, 2019, the new Congress will be sworn in. It is widely and safely presumed that Nancy Pelosi will retake the mantle of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. So far, there is no discussion for any of the Greek-American Members of Congress seizing one of the official leadership roles, but there are certain Hellenic angles to those races as well. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island – a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who authored the “End the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act” in the House as well as restrictions against F35 jet transfers to Turkey, has declared a run for Assistant Majority Leader. Beyond his established leadership on Hellenic issues, Congressman Cicilline has a Greek-American Chief of Staff, Peter Karafotas. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois – who has quickly established a very close relationship with her state’s Greek-American community and has been incorporating young Greek Americans into her “Build the Bench” program – is pursuing the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In addition to Bustos’ relationships, her top finance staffer is a Greek-American, Denise Mousouris.

There were a few significant losses due to retirement. Niki Tsongas, a six term Democratic member of Massachusetts who served on the Armed Services Committee (and the wife of the late Paul Tsongas), retired. An even greater loss will be felt by the Republican retirements of Ed Royce – the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – and of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – the Chairman Emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We have had a decade long run of active pro-Hellenic Chairmen and ranking Members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We do not yet know which Republican will take the mantle of ranking member, but there is a good chance that this streak will end.

On the majority side, Eliot Engel will be the new House Foreign Affairs chairman. Congressman Engel has long been close to the community and our issues. The first piece of legislation that he authored was on the humanitarian issue of the missing and Cyprus – which through the threat of sanctions brought about more movement on this issue than any other initiative. He broke tradition – of chairmen/ranking members not joining caucuses – and immediately joined the CHIA Caucus. And he was the author of the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act. Yet one other policy priority of Congressman Engel – he is among the most pro-Albanian members of Congress – bears watching as Greco-Albanian relations tense up.

The role of Ted Deutch in the next Congress should excite the community as well. Congressman Deutch, who with Congressman Bilirakis co-founded and co-chairs the CHIA caucus, is set to take the chairmanship of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee. During his years as ranking member, Congressman Deutch has successfully pressured the State Department to consistently reaffirm US support for the Republic of Cyprus’ rights within its Exclusive Economic Zone, has elevated the amount of policy attention Greece and Cyprus get in terms of U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, and has become a leading voice for closer strategic relationships for the US and Greece and Cyprus. That he will be able to do this from the perch of chairman – and an increasingly more prominent and public profile – is significant.

*** NEXT WEEK: the US Senate

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC)

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Hellenic Tourism Organization Awarded for World’s Best Travel Film (video)

The award-winning Hellenic Tourism Organization (EOT) video “Greece: 365 – Day Destination,” won Best Tourism Film in the World for 2018, beating 28 other nominated travel films.

Greece’s video ranked first in public preference in 136 countries, with almost twice as many votes as the second best nomination, and was awarded the “People’s Choice Award, World’s Best Tourism Film 2018”, sponsored by CIFFT, the International Committee of Tourism Film Festivals.

The video creators, Antonis Theocharis Kioukas, head of EOT in Austria, and Eleni Melita, received the award on behalf of the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the Hellenic Tourism Organization at a special awards ceremony in Vienna.

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Greece to launch e-registry for leisure boats

Greece will launch an e-registry for leisure boats via an amendment to the legal provisions, thus the modernising the current legal framework. The amendment is expected to be attached to a bill on central depositories submitted on Thursday.
Legislation establishing an e-registry was initially passed in 2014 but was never put into force. Finance ministry officials said the e-registry will be part of the Independent Authority of Public Revenue (AADE) and will be updated with the cooperation of citizens, the Merchant Shipping ministry and AADE.
The officials note the e-registry will simplify procedures for boat owners and will offer statistical data to support the development of sea tourism in the country.

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3.154 “golden visas” issued in Greece during 2018

A total of 3.154 “golden visas” have been issued by the Greek state to third-country investors or buyers of real estate this year and up until August 31, 2018, according to the migration policy ministry.

Holders of the “golden visa” acquired a residency permit in Greece and have access to other European Union countries.

The initiative commenced in 2013, with 2.493 such visas issued last year.

Chinese nationals have received the most visas, at 1.521; followed by Russian nationals with 438 and Turkish nationals with 337.

Source: tornosnews

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Why Santorini Urgently Needs a Sustainable Tourism Plan

By Michael Ermogenis*

Europe is the undisputed travel ‘destination of choice’ in the world. Almost half of all global travel is destined for Europe and a number of its countries have the highest number of annual visitors in the world.

All indicators show that this trend is only going to increase and in some cases at alarming rates. Europe is like a living museum and its many historic and culturally significant destinations are magnets for global travellers. Travel and tourism (TT) is also a very significant element of the European economy, contributing €669.5 billion ($762.4 billion) (3.6 percent of total GDP) in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 2.8 percent in 2018, and to rise by 2.4 percent per annum from 2018-2028, to €873.3 billion (3.9 percent of total GDP) in 2028 (source: World Travel & Tourism Council).

These are significant numbers and it is no wonder the EU is so focused on TT through numerous programs and initiatives.

Greece, as a member of the EU and one of the cultural icons of the continent, benefits greatly from Europe’s pre-eminence in the global TT industry. While the figures for Greece do not quite match those of France, Spain or Italy, they are still significant given the total size of the local economy.

In fact, TT is a whopping 19.9 percent of the Greek GDP, compared to single digits for other leading European countries in TT. This means that tourism is not only important to the country, it is absolutely vital.

In Santorini, tourism’s economic contribution to GDP is likely in excess of 90 percent. So in following from the previous statement about the importance of tourism to the Greek economy being ‘vital’, logic tells us that the tourism sector is the very oxygen, the lifeline on which Santorini almost totally relies on for its existence.

Logic then, would also tell us that governments (local and national) should have it working like a high-precision Swiss watch.

Alas, in reality it is more like a plastic Mickey Mouse watch.

So this brings us to the inevitable question: “How is it possible, in a country where tourism is the biggest sector, on an island that is almost totally reliant on tourism for its existence there is no formal, sophisticated, technology savvy, environmentally sensitive, community sensitive, culturally protective, forward looking, sustainable destination management plan?”

Perhaps we can ask the same question in another way: “In an era where global communication is at the speed of thought, an era where social media is the engine behind travel and tourism growth and Santorini’s enormous social media footprint through shared photos is the biggest daily global advertisement for Greece…. how is it possible in such an era where Oia is the second most photographed place in Greece (behind the Acropolis)… there is no strategic plan in place to protect it?”

Most would argue its totally illogical, in fact it is downright irresponsible (bordering on criminal) to have such travel destination treasures and simply leave them to their fate. Yet, this is essentially what is currently taking place.

Local, regional & national authorities have systematically failed to produce comprehensive, sustainable tourism plans for Santorini and by association Oia. Its like saying ‘we have one of the Top 3 island destinations in the world… and probably the world’s most picturesque village, but we can’t think of anything we can do to protect them… so we are just going to sit back and watch them being slowly destroyed year by year’.

It is the kind of the strategy you have when you have no strategy at all.

To make things even worse, its not just the potential decline of the Santorini global brand that’s at stake here. There is also an enormous opportunity cost. You see, Santorini is not just a travel destination, it is a ‘dream destination’. There is a big difference between the two. One is a stop-over on a travel list… a tick in a box if you like.

The other is the fuel that makes you want to travel in the first place. Its the dream destination you think about constantly, it fuels your imagination and your mind travels to it at night or in conversations. You scour social media for photos and you can never get enough of it. Its the stuff of dreams, where imagination feeds motivation. Its the dream destinations that people plan their holidays around. Its the starting point, the ‘must do’ destination and then they look at what else they can do while they are in the region.

From a strategy perspective this makes a dream destination a potential feeder source. It’s a gateway that has superior gravitational pull to any other place near it. While that sounds ominous, that superior gravity can also, with the right strategy, be used to increase the profile of lesser known destinations around it.

Many of the surrounding islands, as well as other regions of Greece that have only two-three month seasons (at best), could potentially greatly benefit from Santorini but only if planned properly.

There is no doubt that Greece already greatly benefits by having Santorini inside its borders. The spin-off effect would be hard to quantify accurately, but it would be enormous. Yet, it could be far greater with some proper planning and strategies.

At the moment there are unscrupulous players who are taking advantage of Santorini’s global gravitas, by selling excursions from other islands and flooding Santorini on a daily basis making it unbearable for those paying to stay and spend a few days on the island.

Practices such as hijacking the Santorini name to sell ‘dodgy’ excursions, as well the total lack of development plans for villages other than Oia, uncontrolled daily cruise passenger invasions, lack of adequate infrastructure, almost non-existent town planning enforcement and many other issues, which can leave you perplexed as to “what are they doing?”

As if all this wasn’t enough, we are expecting continued EU tourism growth of minimum 4 percent per annum through to 2025 (a figure which will be doubled on Santorini) and there is a Chinese visitors’ wave underway that is unprecedented. If we think we have problems now, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

So we return to the original question… does one of the top travel destinations in the world, a place considered by many to be one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world, deserve protection? Does it not deserve to be managed in a sustainable way? Does this natural wonder not deserve to be preserved for future generations of locals as well global travellers? Do we not have an obligation as the island’s citizens, as Greeks and as Europeans, to ensure that Santorini not only survives but thrives in the decades ahead?

These are of course rhetorical questions. The answer is obvious.

* Michael Ermogenis: Principle Management Consultant – over 25 years for Fortune 500 companies, Creator of ‘Customer Delight’ standard for enterprise customer service, Strategic advisor to Santorini Chamber of Commerce, Lived in Oia (full time) for 12 years,
Founding member of the Mediterranean Alliance (Venice, Oia, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Rhodes & Crete), Founding member of “Save Oia” Campaign

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