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Sunlit Greece seeks to lure Europeans amid winter energy crisis

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The Greek government has launched a poster campaign targeting mainly European pensioners./AFP
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Dec 12, 2022 - 12:26 PM

ATHENS, GREECE — With most of Europe struggling with soaring energy costs, Greece has launched an initiative to put its mild winters to good use and attract sun-seeking travellers all year round.

The Mediterranean nation recorded November temperatures comfortably exceeding 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) — quite a draw for Europeans eager to save on heating bills that have rocketed in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

The Greek government has earmarked 20 million euros ($21 million) for a poster campaign targeting mainly European pensioners that could boost an economy where the travel sector represents 25 percent of annual output.

“Wanna feel 20 again?” says the poster featuring an elderly pair nibbling watermelon and sipping drinks on a yacht.

“With warm winter temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius, Greece is the place to be,” it adds.

Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, fresh from a tour of several European capitals including Paris and Berlin to promote the initiative, told AFP the government was working “on a plan to campaign for Greece 12 months per year”.

With northern European countries facing much longer and bitterly cold winters, “energy-wise there are many more needs than here in the south where the winter is mild” and shorter, he added.

“You live a great one or two months here enjoying your vacation and spending less than you would have spent staying at home,” Kikilias said.

The Florida of Europe? 

“In Greece, no German has to freeze,” top-selling German daily Bild wrote in September, while business daily Handelsblatt suggested the country could become “the Florida of Europe”.

Kikilias said there was a “tradition” among northern European travellers to winter in Spain and Portugal, but he urged holidaymakers eager for sun, sea and sand to “take a look at the eastern Mediterranean (too)”.

After two years of economically painful travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, arrivals in 2022 could finish near the all-time high of 33 million tourists recorded in 2019.

By the end of September, 23.7 million people had holidayed in Greece, and the number of French, German and British visitors even topped 2019 levels.

TUI, the world’s largest tourism operator, earlier this year brought forward the launch of the tourist season because of high demand.

But tour operators have yet to take the plunge in the winter months.

For the time being, TUI does not offer organised trips to Greece from December to February, said Evangelos Georgiou, one of the company’s communications managers.

And German charter airline Condor only offers flights to Kalamata airport in the Peloponnese peninsula until the end of November.

Condor flights to Heraklion on the island of Crete and Rhodes will only resume at the beginning of April, according to spokeswoman Johanna Tillmann.

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