Eat, Pray, Be Healed – Greece Develops New Destinations for Tourists
Greece is experiencing a tourist boom: the number of arrivals of tourists from abroad increased from 14.9 million in 2009 to 24.8 million in 2016. According to the Minister of Tourism of Greece Elena Kundoura, who spoke at the World Travel Market in London, it is expected that For the first time in the history of Greece, international arrivals in 2017 will exceed 27 million. According to the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2016 was 18.6%, and it is projected to grow to 22.4 % by 2026 – tourism development is crucial for the Greek economy.
Greece is traditionally considered a destination for a beach holiday: the peak of tourist arrivals occurs in the warmer months from April to November. Now the efforts of the authorities are aimed at making the country popular 12 months a year. “Most tourists do not know, and it is part of our new tourism policy and plan for promoting abroad, that many destinations are ideal for traveling all year round, and each season offers a unique experience,” says Elena Kundura in an interview with TUI Group. An important point in politics is the development of new areas that will interest not only beach lovers.
According to a study by the European Commission, almost 50% of Europeans surveyed wish to be treated abroad. The most popular areas are recovery from injuries, orthopedics, renal dialysis, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, pregnancy management, artificial insemination. Most often, patients go abroad, because the necessary type of treatment is not available in their home country or foreign clinics offer higher quality services.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has included medical tourism in the list of priority areas within the strategic development plan until 2021. The main advantage of Greece over other popular destinations is the low cost of treatment. For example, according to the Greek publication Ekathimerini, if in the USA the treatment of a cancerous tumor will cost about 420 thousand euros, then in Greece the total amount will be no more than 30 thousand, taking into account the pleasant climate (here on average 300 sunny days a year and the temperature in winter is rare falls below +10 ° C) and good ecology (the amount of harmful particles PM2.5 per square meter in Greece is half that in Thailand and almost one and a half than in Italy) Greece is becoming a competitive destination for medical tourism along with a number of such popular countries like avs Tria, Germany, Israel or Switzerland. Large medical centers in Greece are located on the islands of Corfu, Crete, Thessaloniki, Kalamata, Alexandroupolis and Athens.
In Greece, the number of doctors per capita is one of the highest in Europe: approximately 97 specialists per 10 thousand inhabitants.
In the fall of 2017, George Patoulis, President of the Athens Medical Association, announced the creation of the International Medical Tourism Center of Greece. According to Ekathimerini with reference to the words of Yannis Tuntas, professor of medicine at the University of Athens, in the next ten years of Greece, it will be possible to attract 400 thousand patients from abroad and earn 2 billion euros in this sector. One example of an ongoing initiative is the launch of a portal that helps patients from other countries sign up for online treatment in Greece. It provides users with information about medical centers, specialists working there, affordable courses of treatment, their cost, transfer and translation services.
Pilgrimage tourism is more resistant to fluctuations than any other. About 330 million people go on a trip to holy places every year in the world. Greece is one of the most popular countries for pilgrimage tourism. Six religious cultural monuments of Greece are included in the UNESCO list:
• Monasteries of Meteora;
• Mount Athos;
• the monasteries of Daphne, Osios Lucas and Nea Moni;
• Early Christian and Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki;
• the ancient city of Mystra;
• The historical center (Chora) with the monastery of St. John the Evangelist and the cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos.
According to a study by Maria Simone-Charteris and Stephen Boyd, Mount Athos is one of the five most popular destinations for religious tourism in the world.
There are traditional pilgrimage routes, for example, the journey “in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul”, which begins on the island of Samothrace and continues through the cities of Kavalu, Philippi, Amphipolis, Thessaloniki, Veria, Athens and ends in Corinth, where a church was built in his honor.
If earlier the pilgrimage in Greece developed independently, now this direction is supported at the state level. The government identifies three potential directions for the development of religious tourism:
1) digitalization and visualization of cultural monuments (for example, the creation of “virtual museums” and 3D tours).