Feature: Volunteers join efforts to boost record tourism arrivals in Athens

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-26 19:06:35|Editor: Liangyu
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ATHENS, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Athens is on track to host a record breaking number of foreign visitors which for the first time ever will exceed 5 million people this year, according to the latest data released by the City of Athens this week.

In order to further boost the tourist influx and local economy, the municipality has mobilized enthusiastic Athenians this year to welcome visitors at info point kiosks across the city.

More than 100 volunteers of all ages and walks of life, equipped with specially branded T-shirts and hats, assist since May the municipality's employees to provide help to visitors at kiosks on Syntagma square in front of the parliament, the pedestrian path at the foot of the Acropolis hill and the Athens airport seven days a week.

Launched by Athens Mayor Yorgos Kaminis and Athens Tourism Partnership, an initiative which brings together several major players in the tourism sector, such as airliners, the "Athens Greeter" program aims to showcase the friendly and hospitable face of the city and offer tourists city insight and information.

"Tourism is an important job creator and economic driver for the city of Athens...The Program will help us ensure our visitors enjoy their time spent in the capital, and we hope to welcome all of them back as repeat visitors year after year," Kaminis said in an e-mailed statement.

According to the World Tourism Organization, 40 foreign visitors create one new job domestically, boosting employment and the overall economy, he noted.

The program is also part of a wider campaign to promote the Greek capital as a modern, attractive year-round destination,

"This is the final leg of a major effort made in Athens in recent years, of a systematic bid to promote Athens across the world," Evita Kalogiorga, spokesperson of the City of Athens Development Company, told Xinhua.

The Athens Greeters are tasked to pinpoint to visitors the known and unknown, different aspects of Athens.

"They are the warm, friendly face of the city. They are answering questions; they are handing out informative material, such as maps and tip cards helping along with municipality employees," Kalogiorga noted.

The program also enhances the spirit of volunteerism among Athenians, and provides an opportunity for some training and work experience in the tourism sector not only to the young, but also older Greeks who consider a career change during the debt crisis.

The youngest volunteer is 18 years old, while the oldest is 72, a retired air steward.

Konstantina T, 22, is studying Finance. She did not join the program seeking a career in the tourism industry, but just wanted to help foreign visitors and share with them her passion for the city where she was born, she told Xinhua.

She had worked as a volunteer in the past during the Athens Marathon and she wanted to do it again this summer.

"I am very proud of this city. I live here. I was born here. I think it has a lot of things to see when you come here for first time, a lot of monuments, very nice places to go all day. So yes I am very proud of it and I would like to show them all the places to go and have a very nice experience," she said.

Approximately 25,000 visitors seek help at Syntagma's info kiosk per week. And many of them return before leaving Athens just to thank the employees and volunteers for the assistance.

"It is rewarding because we take a lot of smiles, a lot of thank you. They try to speak in Greek and learn some things in my language," Konstantina said.

Nico from Namibia was one of the tourists she helped find a bus ticket on Friday. On his way to visit his two children who are students in Germany, he stopped in Athens with his wife to see the Acropolis and as much as they can within a few days.

They were impressed with Konstantina and in general Greek people, he told Xinhua.

"We think they are very friendly and helpful; they are very open and I think they enjoy having tourists in town," he said.