Greek culture and tourism minister Pavlos Geroulanos met Thursday evening in Belgrade with Serbian state secretary for tourism at the economy and regional development ministry Goran Petkovic to examine prospects for cooperation in the tourism sector, with both sides ascertaining room for further development.
Geroulanos thanked the Serbian people for their preference for Greece for their holidays during a period of crisis, noting a substantial increase in Serbian visitors this year.
Indeed, he said, the target for 2012 is to reach 1 million tourists from Serbia.
Asked by ANA-MPA to what degree the increase in tourism boosts the efforts for Greece's exit from the economic crisis, Geroulanos replied that "Greek tourism greatly helps in overcoming the crisis, and there is no doubt that at this time it its giving the spark for a turnaround of the Greek economy and some positive messages abroad".
Geroulanos also said it is necessary to develop other regions, beyond the traditional tourism destinations, in order to attract more visitors from abroad, while he attributed the increase in tourism to Greece this year chiefly to the fact that new markets were attained rather than to the international conjunctures.
Although the crisis in North Africa positively impacted tourism to Greece, only 3 percent of the overall increase of tourism to Greece was attributed to that since the tourist trend from the area had been on the rise before the turbulence broke out, according to figures, he said.
Geroulanos said that the attainment of new markets acted catalytically for the increase in tourism to Greece, noting a 180 percent increase in visitors from Turkey, 120 percent from Israel, approximately 90 percent from Russia and about 70 percent from Serbia.
This fact, combined with a return of tourists from Germany and Britain, gave rise to the positive results, he said.
Geroulanos also met with representatives of major travel agencies in Serbia, while on Tuesday he will represent Greece at the 9th UNESCO regional summit to be held at the Viminacium archaeological site, themed "Modern Art, Reconciliation in Southeast Europe".