Long known as a top tourist destination, Greece was distinguished at the World Travel Awards in Moscow, Russia on Friday. The Greek Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourist Organization were jointly awarded the World’s Leading Tourist Board at the international event.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s World Travel Awards ceremony was broadcast online from Moscow. Since 1993, the World Travel Awards has honored nations and organizations which uphold the highest standards in the tourism industry.
Greek Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis expressed Greece’s gratitude in receiving the award, stating: “With great joy and pride we accept the highest distinction of the World Travel Awards on behalf of our country.”
Theoharis also noted that this is the first time Greece had been honored with this distinction by the World Travel Awards.
Of course, the tourist season in 2020 has experienced a devastating impact from the global pandemic, and hotels, airlines, tour guides, and countries which rely on the annual flood of tourists have been put in the some of the most difficult economic circumstances in recent memory.
Greece, already struggling economically, has been especially affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism comprises nearly 20% of the country’s GDP directly, and employs approximately one fifth of Greek workers. Arrivals to Greece were down nearly 70% during the 2020 tourist season due to the pandemic, leaving much of the country’s population in deep financial trouble.
Greece, however, refused to succumb to the circumstances, seeing the pandemic as a chance to invest in sustainable tourism, in hopes of mitigating the damage caused by the grim season. This more “green” tourism is viewed by many as the future of the industry in the wake of Covid-19 and climate change.
Theoharis called Covid-19 “the biggest challenge facing world tourism for the last 20 years,” noting that Greece’s response to the pandemic proved that “with prudence, seriousness, and a spirit of solidarity,” Covid-19’s negative impact on Greece’s vital tourism industry could be lessened.
In his speech, Theoharis noted that Greece’s reopening to tourists in the summer was widely regarded as safe and efficient, saying “The international community recognizes our hard work and methodical efforts, the care for the health and safety that we managed to offer to millions of tourists who were hosted this summer in Greece, and the excellent work done by the private sector and employees and all those involved in the tourism process.”