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
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.