Olympias Hall, Ioannis Vellidis Convention Center, Thessaloniki
Monday, September 9, 2019, 2:30 p.m.
Καλησπέρα σας. Stella, Mayor Zervas, Deputy Governor Thanos, Deputy Governor Patoulidou, thank you for your presence here today, which demonstrates your commitment to deepening our cooperation on trade and investment, especially in the tourism, digital skills, and entrepreneurship sectors.
I also want to thank Nikolas and Elias from the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce for organizing this speaker series to continue promoting U.S. technology and innovation.
It’s a pleasure to join you today and to take stock of the progress made in the last year with Google Greece’s project “Grow Greek Tourism Online.” Google unveiled the project at the U.S. Pavilion at TIF 2018, part of a full range of activities and programs to help spread digital skills in Thessaloniki and Central Macedonia.
Google also designed an exclusive “Travel History” feature on Google Earth – which I had the pleasure of having a virtual tour earlier – which showcases 27 Thessaloniki monuments to users all over the world.
After our landmark success as Honored Country at TIF 2018, we’re keeping our promise to maintain the momentum and take the next steps in northern Greece.
Our continued presence at TIF supports major pillars of the upcoming U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue with Secretary Pompeo in October, especially in the areas of trade and investment and people-to-people ties.
Last week, we welcomed Secretary of Commerce Ross back to Greece to discuss investment opportunities. The Secretary, who led our high-level government delegation to last year’s TIF, will host a business roundtable for Prime Minister Mitsotakis in New York, later this month, to promote further U.S. investment in Greece.
And speaking of U.S. investment in northern Greece, as announced by the Prime Minister here on Saturday night, the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer plans to establish a digital research center in Thessaloniki, hiring up to 200 hi-tech workers. This builds upon Pfizer’s participation at TIF last year.
The “Grow with Google” project aligns with U.S. efforts at TIF 2019 to share our expertise in entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. One of the main ways that we are supporting Greece’s economic recovery is by supporting Greek entrepreneurs and disseminating important digital skills.
That’s why we’ve brought back the Innovation Hub in partnership with the team at Found.ation. I invite you all to visit our public “agora” in the Digital Greece Pavilion, which offers entrepreneurship workshops and “reskilling” seminars that transition workers from non-digital fields into the digital sector.
“Grow Greek Tourism Online” makes digital marketing tools and skills free, accessible, and easy for entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn and apply, regardless of previous knowledge. I also was very fortunate, just before this presentation to see a demonstration of Google’s next step to help entrepreneurs in Greece. These online courses, on topics such as creating a long-term social media plan, making sure customers can find you online, and expanding your business internationally, are crucial since success in the tourism industry depends on attracting new customers online.
The Google initiative is a great example of public-private collaboration with support from the Ministry of Tourism, the Greek Tourism Organization, and the Hellenic Tourism Business Association.
Over the past year, Google has provided online courses and workshops across Greece training around 70,000 Greeks.
Many of them, like Mrs. Ntina, the owner of Emmantina Houses on Santorini, are restarting their lives after the crisis and building new and flourishing businesses, thanks to the practical skills they’ve gained from Google workshops.
Google has given these intrepid, resilient Greeks the skills to grow their businesses online and welcome customers from all over the world.
And it’s working! Over the past year, internet searches for Central Macedonia have increased by 27% from Great Britain, Romania, and Germany; searches for the tourist destination of Katerini (Pieria) have increased by 60%.
I’m excited to explore northern Greece with my family, and I hope to run into many of the entrepreneurs and small businesses whom Google Greece has trained and will train along the way.
I encourage you to return to Olympias Hall to hear AmCham’s other prominent U.S. speakers on topics like the “Agrofood Revolution,” the sharing economy, smart cities, new STEM practices, and urban development.
We’ve organized these talks and events to enable our Greek partners to take the next step forward in important sectors of the Greek economy.
Our continued engagement at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair is just one more way that the United States is keeping its promise to northern Greece, and I hope you’ll take full advantage of the opportunities here and at our other events. So, I am pleased to say congratulations to Google Greece on this phenomenal investment in the success of Greek entrepreneurs and small businesses owners. I can’t wait to see the results.