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Exclusive interview with Angela Gerekou, the ‘Shaper’ at the helm of Greek tourism

11 December 2020 - Neos Komos

The President of the Greek National Tourism Organisation has been an architect, actress, model, politician, mother to Mary and wife of legendary singer Tolis Voskopoulos – but her real role is to ‘shake things up’. She told Neos Kosmos what it’s like navigating all the roles.

Angela Gerekou, who heads the Greek National Tourism Office (GNTO), could have lead a charmed, hassle-free life. Had she relied on her good looks alone, she could have had an easy innings but, by her own account, she’s never been one to fall into stereotypes so she chose a meandering life filled with “obstacles and challenges”.

As a young architect, she was snapped up into the world of acting in the ’80s before joining the socialist PASOK party as Greece’s deputy culture and tourism minister at the peak of the economic crisis in the government of George Papandreou (2009-2010) and became deputy sports and culture minister with the conservative new democracy party in the government of Antonis Samaras (2014). And while her soulful blue eyes and calm demeanour may have garnered a few votes as well as the heart of singer Tolis Voskopoulos, Ms Gerekou has never been one to rest on her beauty alone thanks to sheer grit that has ensured her staying power.

Asked about the interconnectedness of her different roles as architect, actress, model, politician, and even mother and wife, Ms Gerekou told Neos Kosmos that nothing is random. “Everything I do is part of me. I love each role. I love being me. But now, more than before I feel so creative,” she said.

“I want to be a Shaper, the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that, with vision, I can inspire and promote changes. It’s the only way for me to transform obstacles as exciting challenges and have the courage to push on when others feel like quitting.”

The global pandemic has definitely given her a “challenge” – perhaps the biggest one yet. “The world has and continues to suffer sizeable losses and setbacks due to COVID-19. Not least among those setbacks is the shock to the travel and tourism sector,” she said.

Award-winning coronavirus season

Asked to look into the crystal ball of the future and share her vision as to what a post-COVID-19 world will look like for tourism, she says that there’s still a way to go before coronavirus is eradicated so “maybe we need time to live with it”, to absorb some of the fallout before we move on.

“We need to do some things to have clear rules between all the countries. This is a very important issue for every government,” she said. “Greece, despite all the difficulties that Europe faces because of COVID-19, has managed to welcome visitors. Greece’s identity and its comparative advantages represent a country that contains many other ‘countries’, in the sense that it offers a wide array of choices.”

She points to the three initiatives taken in tourism already: (1) the imposition of health protocols on every aspect of the tourism industry in every region around Greece; (2) the strengthening of health infrastructure in hospitals and private healthcare; and (3) strict controls and measures. At the helm of the GNTO, she says that Greece’s tourism marketing campaign will continue to put health safety first.

The approach has already drawn the international spotlight with the Greek Ministry of Tourism and GNTO together awarded the World’s Leading Tourist Board at the World Travel Awards (WTA) 2020. “The WTA award is a great distinction which reflects the successful opening of Greece to tourism during the pandemic,” she said.

“It shows that our country, with prudence, seriousness and a spirit of solidarity faced the adventure of COVID-19 – a phenomenon considered the biggest challenge facing world tourism for the last 20 years, at least in the most effective way.”

Source: Neos Komos

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