“Sea, sun and sand”. What more could you ask for?. Greece, as everyone knows, the Mediterranean summer holiday destination par excellence, is trying to free itself from this image. Trying to take advantage of what – in general – would be two handicaps. Climate change and the Russia-Ukraine war, with its consequences, particularly in terms of energy costs.
The target number of a real campaign launched in the autumn by Athens are retirees, especially those from Northern Europe, to be attracted by the prospect of an (increasingly) mild winter. A campaign that for now seems above all a declaration of intent. Just take a step in the most famous coastal destinations to realize it. In Rhodes, in the south-east of the Aegean, where the thermometer these days still exceeds 20 degrees, just take the road that winds along the coast, and crosses many of the most renowned hotel complexes: the various Sun Beach Resorts, Electra Palace, Blue Horizon are all closed for the winter. Further south on the east coast in Lindos the only restaurant open in early December, the Dolphins, is about to close its doors until April, despite a relatively large crowd of Dutch and German holidaymakers dedicated to savoring the last baths. From Mykonos to Corfu up to Santorini, most of the Greek islands thrive on tourism only from April to the end of October: seeing is believing, inventing an off-season itinerary, perhaps because you are eager to discover their landscapes away from the crowds, and looking for ferries … In winter, therefore, shutters closed and covered with Spanish white.
But in search of new outlets for a sector which in conditions of non-international crises or pandemics represents 25 percent of local GDP, the Greek authorities are trying to focus on the arrival of holidaymakers in the weak season. “From the status of only summer destination – like sea-sun-sand – Greece wants to become a destination for the whole year”, assures the Greek Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias to France Presse – “In the winter months, instead of coming here, Northern Europeans rather head to southeast Europe, to Mallorca, Marbella, Gran Canaria or Portugal,” adds the minister from his Athenian office. “We now say: look also towards the east coast of the Mediterranean”, who this year personally traveled to European capitals, from Paris to Berlin, to promote the coast and the islands of Greece as a winter destination.
After two years penalized by the covid factor, the 2022 season should allow Greece to get closer to the 2019 record, when the country welcomed 33 million international guests. At the end of September, it had reached 23.7 million, with positive balances compared to the record year for the French, German and British. Very good numbers, despite the clouds brought on the European economy by the war and its consequences on energy costs. But it is precisely on this last aspect of the crisis that Athens has tried to focus, to transform it as “an opportunity”, explained Kikilas, who is particularly encouraging Central and Northern European pensioners to come and “winter in the heat”, reducing their gas and electricity bill numbers.
In September, the same German newspaper Bild summed up. “No German will freeze in Greece”. “In a beautiful environment, you can live here for a month or two for less than if you were at home,” confirms the tourism minister. The government of Athens has invested 20 million in an advertising campaign aimed in particular at the elderly, where the slogan plays on the possibility of simultaneously finding twenty degrees, and … twenty years.
Despite all this, and despite the fact that the German business daily Handelsblatt wrote that Greece could become “the Florida of Europe”, the big local tour operators have not yet taken the next step. The giant TUI, which had also anticipated the start of its offer to the Greek coasts in the spring, following “strong demand”, does not “organize trips to Greece between December and February”, according to Evangelos Georgiou, one of the communication managers of the company. The German charter carrier Condor, in turn, only offered flights to Kalamata until the end of November. Those towards Heraklion (Crete) and Rhodes will not resume until the beginning of April – explains the spokeswoman of the company Johanna Tillmann -.