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Stavros Arnaoutakis

Regional Governor of Crete 

"The future of tourism is inextricably linked to sustainable development" 

Editor Margarita Manousou

The Regional Governor of Crete, Stavros Arnaoutakis, speaks to grtraveller about the important infrastructures that are being implemented in Crete and are expected to upgrade the image of the destination as well as the new identity of the island in international markets and sustainable development. 


The most important markets for tourists in Crete in 2023 

This year's increase in tourist traffic, compared to 2022, is driven by both Scandinavians and non-Scandinavians, who are experiencing an equal percentage increase. Among the Scandinavians in particular, the largest increase was recorded by Norwegians, followed by Swedes and Finns. Among the main ethnicities of non-Scandinavians, Poles and Germans are the ones with the highest rates of increase. Regarding the other nationalities, the increases in the number of Romanians, Austrians and Cypriots are encouraging, with double-digit growth rates compared to the same period last year, while we are also attracting new markets, as foreign visitors from Luxembourg are visiting Western Crete for the first time. 


Investing in sustainability, infrastructure and digital upgrading  

I would like to point out that for the Region of Crete, tourism is shaped in the light of the great challenges of the time. In this context, we are invited to focus our strategy on five key target axes for the improvement and development of public -mainly- infrastructure, innovation and promotion of the tourism product, digital upgrading and transformation of the tourism ecosystem, environmental protection and sustainability, - and for the enhancement of skills and the development of entrepreneurship. 


SETE's National Strategy for Greek Tourism 2030 as a roadmap for development 

The National Strategy for Greek Tourism 2030, prepared by SETE, in cooperation with tourism bodies and with the participation of specialised scientists, constitutes the Road Map for the coming years. As the Region of Crete, utilizing the qualitative and quantitative data of the Strategy, it is important to specify and at the same time update our business objectives based on the needs of a dynamic market. With the resulting data, we are implementing, in parallel with the National Strategy, a Regional Tourism Policy, in cooperation with the Ministry, the Greek National Tourism Organisation, the Municipalities and the Tourism Bodies, which aims at extending the tourist season, which is sustainable, fair and balanced, which preserves and highlights the cultural heritage and the natural beauty of our island and which highlights the particular competitive advantages of each region and destination. Beyond this, however, through an integrated strategic approach we are trying to promote Crete as a tourist destination that is ideal for all year round, that can meet the needs of specialized groups of tourists, athletes, researchers, scientists, students. People looking for authentic experiences. The path we have chosen is delivering measurable results. The continuous awards for the tourist promotion of our island, the effective use of new technologies, the continuous upgrading of Crete in the largest travel websites of the world are just the beginning. 


Priority for the construction of the Northern Road Axis 

For the Region of Crete, the construction of the Northern Road Axis from Kissamos to Sitia is an established priority that reflects the entire society of Crete. Over the last year, significant progress has been made on the construction of the project. The contractor for the Hersonissos-Agios Nikolaos section has already been installed. In the coming months, procedures will be launched for other parts of the project. 


New airport in Kastelli Heraklion  

With the signing of the Concession Agreement for the design, construction, financing and operation of the new airport, the whole of Crete has acquired a new development identity. The footprint of this major project will decisively change the island's position on the global aviation map. It is certainly an extremely important infrastructure project, a project that proves that when the right decisions are taken at the political level, significant benefits can be achieved for the whole of society. From today the wider area of Kastelli is entering a new development trajectory. A development path that will not only include the airport project, but which should be accompanied by the construction of a modern and safe road network, suitable and capable of serving the millions of passengers that will travel annually from the new airport. At the same time it is necessary to develop a development strategy for the region in the coming years, the implementation of which will be supported by the Region of Crete. 


Quality and authenticity in the approach to visitors 

In the Region of Crete, through our integrated Strategic Planning for Tourism, we are implementing an open cycle of interventions and initiatives, pointing out at every opportunity that the future of tourism is inextricably linked to sustainable development, respect for the environment, society and people. In cooperation with tourism stakeholders at local and national level, we are building a new image of Crete in terms of its identity in international markets, through the use of new technologies and the promotion of its natural and cultural heritage. At the same time, we support the regional model of tourism governance in human capital, balanced regional development, the promotion of comparative advantages, spearheading quality and authenticity in the approach to visitors. Investment in new infrastructure and technologies is necessary, but with rules that will respect the environment, calculate the carrying capacity of each destination and create scientific structures for the planning and monitoring of the tourism product, with the central pillar of taking important decisions for the sustainability of the sector. 

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