Tourism pact to be signed with Greece, 10 February 2014

by Ghazanfar Ali Khan

Saudi Arabia and Greece will sign a major agreement here on Monday to boost cooperation in the tourism sector, generate growth in tourist traffic and offer opportunities to the southern European nation to showcase its tourism products and services in the local market.

Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, who has been invited by Prince Sultan bin Salman, chief of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), will sign the accord on behalf of Greece.

“The plan is to step up cooperation between Riyadh and Athens in all tourism-related areas,” said Greek Ambassador Ioannis Christofilis in an interview on Sunday.

The Greek tourism minister will hold talks with Prince Sultan on Monday. She will also hold talks with top Saudi officials during her three-day visit to Riyadh, including Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar and Abdulaziz Khoja, culture and information minister.

Kefalogianni will attend the inaugural session of the Janadariyah festival as a guest of Prince Sultan.

During the interview, Christofilis spoke about the progressively growing relations between the Kingdom and Greece, its trade ties with Riyadh and its plans to hold a joint ministerial meeting for trade and commerce, as well as its proposal to hold a summit of European Union leaders and Arab heads of state.

“Greece, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has embarked on other initiatives to strengthen ties with Arab states,” said the envoy.

Greece’s plan to hold an EU-Arab summit will go a long way in providing solutions to regional issues affecting the two major blocs, he added.

Christofilis said that tourism is one of the major components of Saudi-Greece relations and that about 13,000 Saudi citizens visited that country last year. In fact, tourism figures are set to rise to a record high in Greece this year, according to a new report. This will definitely ease the financial burden of debt-hit Greece, said the report.

People now realize that Greece is a safe and pleasant holiday destination, it said, while referring to the several initiatives taken by Athens to promote tourism. Greece has also announced plans to offer residency permits to non-EU citizens, including Gulf investors, on purchasing or renting property. The tourism sector is very important for Greece, generating 12 billion euros in revenues, which has accounted for 17 percent of the country’s GDP during the last few years.