NEWS

PM sees Internet as driver for tourism

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday emphasized the enormous potential of the Internet in drawing foreign visitors to Greece and raising much-needed tourism revenue, noting that the government?s official tourism site had received more than 2 million hits from users outside the country in the past year.

In a meeting attended by Tourism and Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and his deputy Tilemachos Hytiris, Papandreou said that online promotion – via the ministry?s official site at www.visitgreece.gr but also through a wealth of online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube – could help boost awareness of Greece as a tourist destination.

Since April last year, a total of 2.21 million visits have been recorded on Visitgreece.gr, Papandreou said, adding that the number of visits to the site from Google?s web search engine had increased by 110 percent since January.

The enormously popular Facebook also has helped promote Greek tourism with a variety of pages dedicated to tourism in Greece attracting a total of 7.67 million visits over the past year. Similarly, Twitter has seen a 121 percent increase in activity over the past four months.

Papandreou also hailed the ?You in Greece? campaign, launched by the ministry last year, which focused chiefly on videos posted on the Internet by foreign visitors to Greece describing their experiences to would-be tourists.

The debt-ridden government is hoping to capitalize on a slump in tourism in North Africa to draw visitors and boost revenue.

Tour operators have said that Greece and Spain appear to be the two main beneficiaries of a shift by holidaymakers away from Egypt, Tunisia and other North African countries affected by political unrest.

In an encouraging development, the travel website TripAdvisor on Wednesday published its annual list of Europe?s top 20 beaches – compiled by readers – which this year includes five Greek entries.

The island of Santorini in the Cyclades is in second place, after Nice, with the Ionian island of Corfu in third place and the southern Aegean island of Crete in fourth. Myconos is in seventh place and Rhodes in 19th.