Tourists gather to watch the sun set in Oia village on the island of Santorini, Greece. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Greece’s tourism sector is booming and it offers huge investment opportunities for the UAE and GCC investors, said Greece’s alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, in an interview to Gulf News.

Kountoura on tour of the UAE promoting, Greece as a destination both for travel and investment from the UAE and the GCC region said, her country is a championing Arab investments and tourist arrivals from the region.

“We offer all facilities for the UAE investors in Greece. We are ready to open up all available domains. Clearly tourism is an area where business is booming and we seek investments from UAE,” said Kountoura.

The recent decline of the euro against the dollar and other major currencies make Greece a competitive destination for investors. “The impact of currency is visible on costs and Greece is now far more attractive than many other comparable destinations around the world,” she said.

Tourism which accounts from nearly 20 per cent of Greece’s gross domestic product and is a key sector of the economy. More than 22 million tourists visited Greece last year.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party which leads anti-austerity government which came to power in snap polls in January this year is in favour of low tax rates to encourage investment.

Investment friendly

Greece’s tourism portfolio is now part of the new Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Ministry. The merger of ministries followed the victory of leftist party Syriza and the creation of a two-party coalition government with the Independent Greeks party (ANEL)

The new ministry oversees development and competitiveness, shipping and the Aegean, tourism and infrastructure, transport and networks.

Kountoura comes from the ANEL party whose programme is very tourism and investment friendly.

“We want to convey the message that Greece is ready to receive visitors from the UAE and the Middle East region. The UAE nationals no longer require a visa to enter Greece. We were strong supporters of the Schengen visa waiver which the UAE achieved recently,” said Kountoura.

The Greek minister said the UAE nationals and residents will find Greece a friendly destination that will suit all tastes. “Greece has so much to offer in terms of history, culture, heritage, nature and medical tourism. The food we have is so similar to that of this region that whoever visits Greece from this region will feel it to be their second home,” she said.

As part of promoting Greece as both a tourism and investment destination, Kountoura has been touring the GCC region. In April she visited Saudi Arabia and discussed potential Saudi investments in Greece, with leading Saudi firms including Kingdom Holding.