Home to more five-star beds than any other region in Greece, the island of Crete has quickly become the fastest growing tourism market in the nation, recording a 60% growth in arrival over the past six years, Governor Stavros Arnaoutakis has declared.
What are Crete’s top objectives in terms of trying to boost the economy further?
One of the main drivers of economic growth for our island is the tourism industry, given that it amounts to up to 47% of Crete’s GDP. Through cooperation with our affiliates and local tourism stakeholders, we aim to promote even further our economic growth while working to expand the tourist season and establish more jobs. Crete not only has a very long tradition and history in terms of culture and the primary sector, but is also world renowned for its hospitality. Furthermore, we believe that it is a very safe destination for holidaymakers. The number of tourists arriving to our island each season is gradually rising. What we want, through our synergies and partnerships, is to promote quality tourism, but also develop alternative forms of tourism, apart from the “sea-and-sun” model.
What opportunities would you advise investors to watch out for in the tourism industry?
Crete has witnessed a 60% growth in tourists over the past six years. Regarding the years to come, we aim to invest in quality tourism. Currently, we are constructing 5,000 new beds for five-star hotels, which will only add on to our large luxury offering, given that Crete has the most five-star beds in comparison to the rest of Greece. We estimate that within the next five years, 20,000 more five-star beds will be added in order to be able to accommodate the number of tourists arriving to our island. In parallel, another goal is to make a connection between the primary sector, our agriculture and the tourism industry.
How is Crete planning to promote the island as a four-season destination?
The extension of the tourist season and the growth of winter tourism are strategic goals for the Region of Crete. Our island is an ideal four-season destination due to the fact that we have an abundance of natural advantages, like our mountains for trekking and other athletic activities. Furthermore, cultural tourism is quite valuable for us. Tourists can also visit museums, archeological sites, churches and monasteries. Plus, gastronomy could be an important factor, given that the Cretan diet is famous all around the world.
What major infrastructure are you planning to upgrade in the tourism industry?
The new airport in Kasteli has been a part of a successful international round of tenders. We have now reached the evaluation phase and estimate that construction will begin later this year. Regarding the North Road Axis, it has been underscored as a priority project to improve island infrastructure. Moreover, we have a brand-new airport in Sitia and one recently expanded in Chania, both of which meet high international standards of quality in airport service and aviation. The airport in Sitia is currently able to host flights from Sweden and next year will begin operating flights from Germany, too. The airport in Chania is being expanded in order to offer new services.
What is the case in Crete regarding energy development?
We always make our plans with respect towards the environment, so we are always aiming for more green energy. In fact, 25% of the total energy in Crete comes from renewable sources, which is higher than the European average.
Why do you believe now is the right time to invest in Greece?
The Greek economy is finally being stabilized after many years of crisis. There is a very favorable environment for investments. All, or at least the majority, of political powers in Greece have agreed to support the European perspective of Greece; in other words, to support Greece being a part of the European Union and the Eurozone. The growth is here, we are getting past the crisis and we hope that Greece will be able to stand on its feet again.