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Google goes Greek with tourist video

google drawing greece

The search engine giant Google wants you to visit Greece next year as this promotional video shows.

It looks like the search engine Google wants you to take a holiday in the Greek Islands next year. The search engine giant has launched a Grow Greek Tourism Online initiative aimed at boosting out-of-season visitor numbers.

Based on the popular holiday island of Crete, the Google initiative offers tips and help to Greek Island tourism firms to give them a chance to improve search results and to promote advertising campaigns that will attract visitors outside the normal summer season.

Around 600 small business across Greece have signed up to the scheme so far according to Google's Athens-based public policy and government relations manager Dionisis Kolokotsas and more are expected to climb aboard.

Google's Greek tourism boosting campaign follows a call by search engine bosses last year to tourism businesses right across southern Europe, including Greece, Spain and Italy to become more alert to the potential growth of online holiday tourism.

As part of the initiative, Greek firms are being urged by Google to post more information on multi language Web sites and to get stuck into social media and online customer feedback mechanisms and thus boost visitor numbers for the country at the same time as promoting their own businesses on the Internet .

It sounds like a good idea but not everyone is comfortable with the philanthropic instincts of the search engine giant which takes the giant share of search engine traffic on the web.

Indeed, given the suspicion with which Google activity is viewed in many European countries, the Greek tourism initiative could simply be written off as a sweetener to Europe to improve it's own image.

It has already crossed sword with a number of European countries over its search engine dominance, its Android app promotion, the Streetview images and the collection of wi-fi data, not to say the recent 'right to be forgotten' ruling by the European Court.

But some say the Google Greece initiative is not all bad and there is a desire in the company to heal the wounds in Europe and to be seen by European governments as a more constructive influence.

There is no doubt that Greece could certainly do with more foreign cash flowing into its empty coffers as it tries to cope with paying off huge international bailout loans and cost-cutting government austerity measures.

The holiday industry now accounts for 17% of Greece's Gross Domestic product and the Internet has an increasing potential to grow that market even more with some studies suggesting tourism can help Greece's economy grow by 3% next year and help create another 100,000 new jobs at a time when unemployment in Greece is at al all-time high.

Tourism a potential growth area for Google too. As more people use the web to plan their summer holidays in Greece, Google has more opportunities to sell advertising space on the search results. A search for 'Crete beach hotel', for example, could reap in rich rewards from advertising if more hotels try to compete in the same online market.

Greece is certainly trying to make the most of the digital age. Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni recently stressed the central role of tourism in the recovery of the Greek economy, with 2014 forecast to see a big rise in visitor numbers and income from visitor spending already up 27.8% on 2013.

Greece has launched a strategic plan to tempt more on Greek Island holidays next year which includes plans to promote Greek tourism to the maximum extent possible through the Internet, digital tools and mobile technology.

In the latest initiative the ministries of tourism and culture have teamed up to promote the cultural heritage of Greece. One of the first moves is to attract more movie and television producers to Greece with economic incentives and cuts in red tape.

They also agreed to work together on creating mobile phone apps to encourage visitors to the Greek Islands to explore Greece's cultural, archaeological sites and monuments.

It all suggests that Greek Island tourism has a bright future after several years of decline. Certainly the figures on visitor numbers are looking very good this year and experts predict a record-breaking year for holiday visitors to the Greek Islands in 2014.

If Greece can also cash in on the growing market for online holidays it may well mean that tourism can play an even bigger role is helping the country back on its economic feet after years of austerity.

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