Name: Elena Kountoura
Title: Minister of Tourism, Greece
Company, city: Ministry of Tourism; Athens, Greece
Number of employees: Almost 1 million jobs in Greece are linked with tourism and travel.
Recent project: National tourism policy to promote Greece as a 365-day destination
First job: Physical education professor
Little-known fact about you: Mother of two wonderful sons
What innovations/initiatives do you foresee in the industry over the next years? Ιn the fast-growing global tourism sector, where rapid changes occur in travel patterns and habits and new markets emerge, the key for destinations to stand out is to showcase their distinct identity based on authenticity, innovation and sustainability. Our new tourism policy promotes Greece as a global, attractive destination 365 days a year, highlighting a wide array of authentic, highly personalized experiences while protecting the richness, diversity and beauty of our nature and our thousands of years of history, traditions and culture. We work toward becoming an exemplary destination of sustainable tourism development that will benefit our millions of visitors and the people of Greece, and generate tourism activity across the country and throughout the year.
What is the best career advice you’ve received? The most valuable advice came from my sports coaches since an early age, as a member of Greece’s national track and field team and during my university studies: Set goals in life and try your best to achieve them with discipline, perseverance, hard work, high values and ethics.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the field? Have a vision and the strong will to work toward making it happen despite obstacles and challenges that are likely to occur.
Elena Kountoura as a Traveler
Favorite travel memory or story: Having traveled the world, the most rewarding moments have been those when I engaged with the locals and exposed myself to new cultures and ideas. But some of the most precious memories I gained while traveling within Greece, discovering something new and different as part of the magic this country generously offers.
One travel tip you cannot live without: Technology provides fast and easy access to information in advance about the destination, its history and culture, and the options for places to visit and experience.
Βest advice for business travelers: Find time to explore the destination you are visiting.
What can premium travelers expect from a visit to Greece? Greece offers unlimited options throughout the year for high-end vacation and tourism services in luxury resorts, boutique hotels and villas of the highest comfort, privacy and style as well as special packages for couples, families, individuals and groups of friends. As the largest and most diverse complex of islands in the Mediterranean, with more than 37,000 miles of coastline, Greece boasts several great marinas. Beyond our cosmopolitan islands, we introduce fascinating new destinations ideal for yachting and cruising as well as for golf, wellness and spas, diving, gastronomy and luxury amenities.
What can our readers look forward to in 2017/2018? Our 100-plus inhabited islands, each with its own beauty and identity, are known for their distinct atmosphere, architecture, landscape and travel experiences. The majestic mainland’s seashore, breathtaking mountains, gorges, lakes, rivers and trails are ideal for biking, hiking and rock climbing in all seasons. Athens, Salonica and other cities offer ancient monuments, contemporary arts, festivals, entertainment and nightlife, great shopping and dining in fine restaurants. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens’s newest cultural gem, houses the Greek National Opera, a 2-million-book National Library and a 42-acre park on Athens’ Faliro Bay. Along with new 4- and 5-star hotels, these developments create a new contemporary culture, sparking renewed interest in the country and further strengthening Greece as a destination and a brand.
What are your recommendations for a visit to Greece? The exquisite landscape, rich history and culture are timeless elements embedded in the whole travel experience. Visitors should see some of our 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, our renowned festivals, museums and galleries. Local fairs and village feasts in open-air theaters, castles and squares bring people together to celebrate life through music, dance, incredible food and locally grown products that promote health and longevity. Traveling around Greece can be a never-ending experience, and this is why many visitors return several times to see more of our amazing destination.
GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
The restored Park Hyatt Toronto reopened its doors, bringing luxury, sophistication and glamour alongside a nod to the hotel’s Canadian heritage. Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge collaborated on the hotel’s refresh, drawing inspiration from Canada’s seasons and natural landscapes.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
I recently dined at Irwin’s in Philadelphia. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bok Building, a former school turned collective of small businesses, non-profits, artist workshops, a bar and restaurant. I previously visited Bok for the bar and yoga classes, and I was excited to experience the restaurant.
Cathay Pacific reaffirms its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with a pledge to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel for 10 percent of its total fuel consumption by 2030. The airline has made pioneering efforts in supporting SAF development for more than 10 years.
Without a doubt, the pandemic changed the role of airports in the travel industry. Hamad International Airport’s role evolved in many ways since the pandemic hit. Now, more than ever, airports are responsible for creating a secure passenger experience. As the gateway to Qatar and the world, the safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers has always been at the core of Hamad International Airport’s strategy.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.