Interview: Greece, Lebanon to increase tourism exchange: ambassador

Greek Ambassador to Lebanon Franciscos Verros said on Monday that Lebanon and Greece are working on increasing tourism exchange between the two countries.

“Lebanese are well-known for being great fans of Greece’s tourism, especially when it comes to Island destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini,” Verros told Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of a press conference in Lebanon’s capital Beirut to prepare for the Greek festival in Lebanon.

“The number of Greek tourists to Lebanon has also increased in the past two years because the Greeks have become more aware of Lebanon’s nightlife,” he added.

The three-day festival will start in Byblos, a city about 42 km north of Beirut, on June 7.

It will be organized by Stin Viryto, an organization founded by the Lebanese journalist George Eid, who is also one of the most prominent figures of the Greek community, in cooperation with Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organization.

The festival will promote tourism through Greek travel agents who will give advice to Lebanese people about the most attractive places in Greece.

There will also be kiosks with Greek food and products, in addition to an open-door cinema which will play Greek films.

Greek professional dancers will give visitors dancing lessons while singers will perform Arabic and Greek songs throughout the festival.

Verros also said the festival will help introduce the two countries to each other.

Few Lebanese people know how much their ancestors, the Phoenicians, influenced the classical Greek civilization through exchange of ideas, arts and the alphabet, he noted.

“Although the Lebanese and the Greeks have had important links for centuries especially in the modern time, we still do not know each other very well. The Greeks are not very much aware of the important touristic attractions in Lebanon such as Tyre and Baalbek,” the Greek ambassador said.

In addition, the Lebanese government can play a big role in promoting Lebanon as a safe destination through travel agencies, he added.

Meanwhile, there is an increasing tendency for travel agencies operating in Greece to list Lebanon among their tourist destinations, Verros pointed out.

“Some of these travel agencies operate in Greece and Lebanon at the same time,” he said, adding Greece’s national tourism organization is participating in Byblos festival because they want to include Lebanon in their programs.

Greece signed a bilateral agreement with Lebanon in April where they will cooperate to promote the two countries for their citizens, according to the ambassador.

“Our minister had very fruitful talks with the Lebanese tourism minister and the two agreed on a framework of cooperation which will also include training of tourism personnel in both countries,” he said.

Verros told Xinhua that he hopes to see more cooperation among museums in the two countries by exchanging expertise and items.

The ambassador noted that there are 4,500 Greek nationals in Lebanon.

“There are a lot of mixed marriages between Lebanon and Greece,” he said.