Acropolis Museum, Athens Greece
April 4, 2022
Kalispera sas. Minister [Kikilias], let me begin with a very personal thank you both for your friendship but also the tremendous support in so many different roles across your time as a leader in the opposition, as Minister of Health, and now as Minister of Tourism.
And let me also say thank you to you and the whole team from the Ministry both for arranging this truly unique in the world setting for our signing event but also all the work that went into this updated U.S.-Greece Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism.
I really want to thank you Minister for your leadership which has been so important to the success as we’ve worked to continue growth in the U.S.-Greece Tourism sector which is so important to the overall Greek economy.
I know that my whole Embassy team has looked forward to this day as it solidifies the outstanding relationship that we have with Greece as a tourism partner. I want to say a special thank you to Laura Wiessner and Yuri Arthur from the Embassy team for the work they did with yours to make today possible.
Our original tourism MoU with Greece was signed on July 31, 1991, right here in Athens. And it spoke to what remains the vital foundation of the U.S.-Greece relationship, which is our people-to-people ties.
Today’s signing ceremony is not just representative of our great tourism relationship but overall our bilateral relationship which is at an all-time high. Our countries are founded on the principle of democracy – a principle born a few hundred meters from us right here in the Athenian Agora — which we have both championed for hundreds of years.
Our shared democratic ideals are more important now than ever before as we stand united in support of Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and bloody invasion.
We are committed as the United States to working with all of our democratic allies and partners around the world to impose a cost on Russia for its actions and to work with all of our NATO Allies, as we do here in Greece every hour of every day to protect every square inch of NATO territory.
And in the midst of this grand crisis of security, I’m really delighted that we have an opportunity to highlight some of the positive news as we look ahead towards what I am confident will be another successful Greek tourism year.
We saw Greece’s tourism economy rebound in unexpected ways last summer. Americans, I am glad to say, flocked to Greece, thanks in part to the nine direct flights from Athens that American carriers added to their schedules. In March, Minister Kikilias and I were able to welcome the first Delta direct flight of 2022 and watched as multiple Americans disembarked, eager to begin their Greek holidays. And just this last weekend United Airlines began its direct flight from New York as well.
And I’m proud to say that this year, there will be a total of 14 direct flights from the United States to Athens, Greece. Many of these will continue as late as October, ensuring that visitors have plenty of opportunity to take a well-deserved vacation and to enjoy the unique pleasures of this country. This bodes very well for a tourism market ripe to receive eager tourists who are anticipating the end of a long and difficult pandemic.
And I am sure everyone here today knows that U.S.-Greece tourism ties go beyond just our airline carriers. U.S. cruise companies, like Royal Caribbean and Disney, are ready to embrace the Greek summer. They have relentlessly pursued safety protocols to ensure that customers are at ease and are able to embrace Greece’s blue skies and unique seas.
U.S. hotels brands including Best Western, Wyndham, Regency, Starwood, Conrad/Hilton and Marriott, have been present in Greece and are growing ready to open their doors for visitors from around the world.
And in the shared economy space, U.S. firms linked to the tourism industry like Uber, AirBnB, VBRO, all contribute to the tourism economy creating jobs, bringing in revenue and providing an array of different experiences for visitors.
So, we very much look forward to continuing our partnership as we welcome more and more Americans to Greece, showcasing all that this country has to offer.
And Mr. Minister, I promise you that in the not too distant future I look forward to returning to Greece as a tourist, hopefully to an island without an airport, to the backside of that island, on a very quiet beach that you can only reach on a rib, to enjoy what for me has been one of the singular pleasures of the past six years which is the outstanding filoxeniaand everything else that this country has to offer.
Thank you very much. Efcharisto poli.