ECONOMY

Santorini, the place to say ‘I do’

More than 1,000 foreign couples have chosen to get married on the picturesque Aegean island of Santorini so far this year, according to data from the local municipal authority, making it the preferred wedding destination for visitors to Greece.

The majority of the hundreds of weddings, both civil and religious, involved Asians. One agency, Heliotopos, has so far made the arrangements for 150 weddings on Santorini this year, out of which 100 concerned Chinese visitors, for whom Santorini has grown into one of the most popular wedding destinations.

In addition, Santorini is witnessing an impressive 20 percent annual increase in incoming tourism traffic from abroad this year and is expected to have welcomed over 1.8 million tourists by the end of 2013, the island’s mayor, Anastasios Nikolaos Zorzos, told Kathimerini. These figures make 2013 one of the best years ever for the island in terms of tourism.

Addressing a conference organized on Santorini by Heliotopos, titled “Tourism and Gastronomy: The Next Step,” the Santorini mayor on Thursday attributed the high number of visitors in part to the success of an initiative that proclaimed 2013 the year of gastronomy on Santorini.

The president of the Santorini Hoteliers Association, Manolis Karamolegos, told Kathimerini that turnover at hotel units this year has increased by 15 percent from 2012. Even now, in mid-October, the hotels that remain open on the island are enjoying an occupancy rate between 60 and 70 percent.

The association has tabled a proposal for the creation of an independent organization for the administration and promotion of Santorini as a holiday destination, with the intention of getting all professionals involved directly or indirectly with tourism on board. It will also create an Internet platform as an instrument for the interconnection of hotel units with foreign tour operators and holidaymakers. This year, there was an initiative by Santorini hoteliers to connect tourism enterprises with the island’s food and drinks producers.