On July 2023, the delegation from the historic city of Qufu in the Shandong region of China visited Halkidiki and specifically the Municipality of Aristotle.
A few 24 hours later the pithy headlines “When Confucius met Aristotle” or vice versa, set the tone of a meeting that is of tourist, cultural and philosophical interest.
The pioneer of this meeting, as well as of the overall effort to establish and promote the brand name of the Municipality of Aristotle around the world, is the mayor of the region, Stelios Vallianos.
Is tourism being exported? Does the local government export tourism? The answer to both questions is definitely yes. And the examples presented as success stories prove that local government, by knowing well the advantages of a region and its people, can play a catalytic role in exporting Macedonia’s tourism product all over the world.
In the steps of Aristotle and in the house of Zorbas
In September 2023, the Municipality of Aristotle won the first prize in the category “Cultural-Tourist-Sports Development” at the ceremony of the “Local Government Awards 2019-2023” for the Aristotelian Walk.
This distinction was another reward for the Municipality’s efforts to build on its strong heritage and create a successful tourism brand that attracts visitors and tourists not only in summer, but all year round.
The Aristotelian Walk, 15 kilometres long, is today the famous path that connects ancient Stagira (the city where Aristotle was born) with the Aristotle’s Theme Park in Stagira and the dozens of slopes of Mount Stratonikos, where the Department of Biology of A. THU conducts 30 years of research, identifying the famous Aristotelian plants and herbs – the same ones that led Alexander the Great to seek comparisons when describing the Asian flora.
The mapped Aristotle’s Walk has been promoted for three years by the Municipality of Aristotle as a marked route and tour entitled “following in the footsteps of Aristotle”, through features in major Greek and European print and online media (The Guardian, Daily Mail, Mirror, Zeit, etc.), as well as through television features on major European networks (Travel Channel, RAI3, BTG, ERT, FRANCE24, DIRECT8).
Among the main objectives of the Municipal Authority is to make the Municipality of Aristotle a year-round tourist destination, not only in summer. Because it is certainly not like Halkidiki, but the trademark of the region, the Stagiritis Philosopher, considered one of the most influential personalities in the world, and the famous Alexis Zorbas are the starting point of many stories that transcend Greek borders and bring visitors to the region all year round.
The international scientific interdisciplinary conference on “The ethical philosophy of Aristotle and Confucius for the 21st century”, which took place in Thessaloniki and in Stagira of Halkidiki, Aristotle’s birthplace, was held in Ouranoupolis.
The Chinese Intellectual, the Stagira Philosopher and the citizen of the world
The Conference on “The Ethical Philosophy of Aristotle and Confucius for the 21st Century”, the proceedings of which were held in Thessaloniki and in Stagira, Halkidiki, were the starting point of the visit of a six-member Chinese delegation to the Municipality of Aristotle, with the aim of cooperation through events to be held in the coming period to promote the two great philosophers. According to Aristotle Municipality’s tourism advisor Maria Papa, the proposal for cooperation includes school trips and educational exchanges and we will ask to present it to travel agents and local authorities in China. These are special tourism packages linked to the contribution of the two great philosophers of antiquity, i.e. they relate the ideal state of Aristotle to the human virtue of Confucius and in this respect are of special interest.
The places continue to narrate, even today, the stories of people who lived in them, people who left a strong imprint on our lives. And in the Municipality of Aristotle there are many more stories to tell. Stories that have crossed the borders of Greece and continue to this day to inspire people all over the world.
The legend of Alexis Zorbas comes to life again at his home in Paleochori where he lived 22 years of his life and worked in the mines of the region. The house will be transformed into a digital museum to attract Greek and foreign visitors. The restoration project of the house is costly, but the Municipal Authority believes that its completion will boost the reputation of the area.
A methodical and professional development strategy for tourism.
“One of the goals we set as a Municipal Authority from 2019 was tourism development. To disprove those who were unable to imagine in our place a development pillar different and parallel to the mining activity, even adopting a rampant catastrophism that in itself caused great damage to the prospects of our place.
We proved in practice how big their mistake was. Winning the 1st prize for tourism development in the “Local Government Awards 2023” was the culmination of a long, methodical and effective effort.
In the Municipality of Aristotle, a common strategy has been developed based on the three universal uniquenesses of this place. The philosopher Aristotle, the Ark of Orthodoxy and the Kazantzakis Alexis Zorbas, or George Zorbas, as his real name was.
A tourism committee was formed with the participation of tourism professionals and the synthesis of forces continued with the establishment of the Aristotelian Partnership, the cluster of tourism and local production businesses, which under the supervision of the Municipality, implemented a series of actions to enhance the tourism product. It highlighted local authenticity, linking primary production with hotel hospitality. The development of wine tourism was the cornerstone, with a methodology of linking wine, tsipouro and moudovina with the 22 local products of the Municipality of Aristotle, as well as with the hotel services provided.
By 2023, we will have an integrated promotional plan focused on innovation, new technologies, sustainability, tourism infrastructure projects, linking tourism with culture, environmental protection and the promotion of thematic tourism.
We combined culture, history and tourism promotion with major narrative theatre productions on the 200 years of the Greek Revolution and the role of Halkidiki in its success, as well as on the role of our coastal settlements in welcoming the first Asia Minor refugees after the 1922 disaster.
The promotional planning is always based on 18 thematic forms of tourism with peaks, walking and cycling tourism, pilgrimage tourism, gastronomy, culture and our historical sites. We have continued and are completing outward-looking interventions in more than 35 tourism markets. Additionally, we prioritize and strengthen digital promotional campaigns. We approach new tourism markets in Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Asia, developing a specific marketing plan for each target country and we established apps for smart devices.
In the tourism promotion program of the Municipality of Aristotle, which still includes many modules and actions, which we would like to take a lot of time and space to mention, the Greek Tourism Organization, the Halkidiki Chamber of Commerce, as well as the more than 170 businesses – members of the Aristotelian Partnership of the Municipality of Aristotle – are participating”, says Aristotle Mayor Stelios Vallianos.
Grecian songs at the Stavros
The planting of an olive tree in Stavros marked the beginning of a cultural, educational and tourist cooperation between the Municipality of Volvi and the Municipality of Castrignano di Greci in Southern Italy. The Kamafei band of Southern Italy presented a programme of traditional Grecan music and for the first time the Kamafaei band presented the work “Notte della Taranta”
The hospitality of local municipal officials, students and teachers from 12 Greek-speaking municipalities of the Salento region in the Italian province of Lecce is part of the wider programme to promote the tourist product of the region and is included in the Strategic Plan for Tourism Development of the Municipality of Volvi.
The aim of the Municipal Authority is to support tourist activities that take place throughout the year and to attract Greek and foreign tourists.
In this direction, alternative tourism thematic actions such as cycling, mountaineering and spa tourism are developed in the area next to Lake Volvi. The actions of the Municipality for the promotion of the local tourist product include the creation of a tourist platform, the formation of artistic events and festivals that take place throughout the year.
The creation of a modern tourism platform in the logic of digital marketing, the development of artistic events in a festival type throughout the year, the systematic approach of Greek visitors for one-day excursions and the selective opening of new tourist markets, especially in Central Europe, are some of the costed proposals of the plan.
As the Mayor of Volvi, Diamantis Liamas, has stressed, “the aim is not only to ensure that by boosting tourism we will contain unemployment in our region, which we have achieved, but to look ahead and claim more quality tourism”.