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Attica's Message to Chinese Tourists: We Will Pleasantly Surprise You

2024-05-28 10:46:00 Source:China Today Author:staff reporter ZHANG HUI
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– Exclusive Interview with Nikos Hardalias, Governor of Greece’s Attica Region 

China and Greece, representing two ancient civilizations, hold an enduring appeal for tourists, especially from each other’s countries, due to their spectacular cultures. The Attica Region in Greece has an enchantment of its own due to its place in history, when its primary city Athens was a center of learning in Europe.

It is therefore no surprise that Greece – and the Attica Region – would be present at a major tourism event in China. With international tourism warming up, the ITB China 2024, the Chinese leg of the international tourism trade exhibition, kicks off in Shanghai on May 27. The three-day gathering has brought more than 600 exhibitors from 80-plus countries and regions, as well as over 1,000 buyers, representing a significant growth of 60 percent over 2023. The boom shows the sustained rise in global confidence in China’s tourism market.  

Governor of Greece’s Attica Region Nikos Hardalias (third, right) at the ITB China 2024. 

The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) has brought nine co-exhibitors from Greece. The Attica Region is represented by its Governor Nikos Hardalias. 

According to a Xinhua report, Chinese tourists made 69,000 visits to Greece in 2023. The number is expected to rise to 100,000 in 2024. Early this year, Greek tourism official indicated there would be tailored tourism products to attract more Chinese visitors.  

In 2022, when China and Greece celebrated the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, they signed a Joint Action Program 2022-2024 to strengthen cooperation on tourism, including cultural and people-to-people exchanges. 

Air China has increased its weekly direct flights between Beijing and Athens from three to five and a direct flight between Shanghai and Athens was launched in April.  

What does Greece think of the bilateral cooperation in tourism, an industry accounting for 18 percent of its GDP? How will it promote its attractions to Chinese tourists? In this exclusive interview, Nikos Hardalias, Governor of Attica Region, shares his insights with China Today.  

China Today: What do you think of the current China-EU cooperation in tourism? How is China-Greece cooperation going in this aspect? 

Nikos Hardalias: China and Greece have a multifaceted cooperation in the context of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, strong bilateral economic exchanges, and the Ancient Civilizations Forum (a forum of 10 countries that were home to some of the ancient civilizations of the world, ranging from Mexico and Peru to Iraq and Iran.) Cooperation in tourism, which has huge prospects, is based on this solid ground.  

Our country is one of the most popular tourist destinations for the Chinese people, with hundreds of thousands Chinese tourists visiting Greece every year, while there is also an increasing number of Greek people who discover your great and attractive country and return having the best impressions. The fact that we count 11 twinnings with regions of China certifies not only the mutual understanding and mutual respect, but also the inexhaustible possibilities of further strengthening our relations as well.  

Greece, as a member of the EU, works systematically to promote cooperation in tourism at a European level. We are Europe's eastern gateway to the Mediterranean and we need to fully utilize this advantage for mutual benefits. 

China Today: Αttica is Greece’s biggest region, famous for its rich cultural heritage and enchanting scenic beauty. What’s your travel suggestion for Chinese tourists? 

Nikos Hardalias: Attica is a destination that combines rare natural beauty, cultural heritage with a universal recognition, and high-level hospitality and transportation services, offering the visitor a unique experience that is not easily found in other metropolitan cities. The Chinese, inheritors and custodians of an impressive ancient culture, are able to highly appreciate these qualities, especially the cultural heritage not only of Athens, but of the whole of Attica.  

Here, they will find people who have great respect for the Chinese culture and will be happy to make their stay special. Now, they can use the direct flight that connects, three times a week, Shanghai with Athens, which is in addition to the corresponding air connection with Beijing. They will also have the opportunity to get to know Athens using the brand new Yutong electric buses (manufactured by Chinese company Zhengzhou Yutong), which will soon be put into operation in the urban transport network of Athens. We will pleasantly surprise you; this is my message to our friends in China who wish to travel to Athens and Attica. 

China Today: What are you going to promote at ITB China?

Nikos Hardalias: The Region of Attica participates in ITB China, one of the leading travel and tourism exhibitions worldwide, as part of the national participation through GNTO. We want to introduce, in the best way, our country to the big market of China. Our intention is to promote and deepen contacts with local tourism professionals in order to showcase first-hand how attractive Attica is for Chinese visitors. Our delegation has already arranged dozens of business meetings during the exhibition, which will definitely multiply given our presence there. It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to meet Gong Zheng, the Mayor of Shanghai, as well as representatives of very important tourism organizations and businesses. 

China Today: What do you think of the potential and prospect for China-Greece cooperation as well as for the cooperation between Attica Region and its Chinese counterparts? 

Nikos Hardalias: The cooperation between Greece and China rests on a very strong foundation and is constantly expanding. China COSCO Shipping Corporation upgraded the Port of Piraeus and turned it into a hub between East and West in the Mediterranean. Greek shipping increasingly trusts Chinese shipyards. As Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pointed out when he was received by President Xi Jinping in Beijing a few months ago, there is huge scope for cooperation in shipping, new technologies, clean energy and, of course, tourism.  

The planning of the Attica Region, which aims to upgrade its tourism branding, is aligned with these strategic directions drawn up by our governments. We already work closely, as part of a joint working group, with the Chinese Embassy in Athens. The ITB exhibition is a first-class opportunity to meet the regional authorities of China and further our cooperation. Tourism, which brings people closer together, is promoted in the best way through exchanges and contacts at a regional level. 


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