Corfu is not just one of the north-western Greek cities in the Ionian Islands, but it is also their capital city. It becomes the fourth sister city of Bethlehem, which has established similar partnerships with Tondabayashi (Japan), Murska Sobota (Slovenia) and Schwabisch Gmund (Germany) (Sperling, & Sander, 2006). Approximately 2,000 Greeks residing in the Lehigh Valley expressed the desire to create a partnership with a sister city. The formalization of the partnership will take place at a ceremony scheduled for March 22, in Bethlehem. The parties will sign the agreement during this ceremony. Corfu’s key industries are tourism and agriculture. It has attracted European elites and royals, previously (Potts, 2010). Currently, it is popular among middle-class families in Europe. This reveals the need to promote Corfu’s tourism industry. This paper will discuss ways to promote tourism in Corfu. In particular, it will examine why and how the sister city agreement between Bethlehem PA and Corfu can benefit both cities and the significance of the agreement.
Corfu and Bethlehem have some similarities which strengthen their sister partnership. For instance, both have similar government structures consisting of a city council and mayor. In addition, both have experienced German influence. Kaiser Wilhelm II a German loved going for vacations in Corfu. In 1907, he bought the Achilleion Palace and appointed Carl Sprenger to be its architect. Additionally, he constructed a bridge that the local population named after him (Fleming, 2010). The Achilleion remains a popular tourist attraction today. Some Moravians who emigrated from Germany were responsible for founding the city of Bethlehem, in 1741 (Sperling, & Sander, 2006). In Corfu, there exist over 30 Greek Churches. Similarly, Bethlehem has embraced Greek culture as is evident in the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Church with the arrival of the first group of Greek immigrants, in 1911 (Levering, 2010). Corfu has experienced European influence in sports as it is the sole Greek city where people practice cricket (Potts, 2010). Additionally, British entrepreneurs have developed holiday companies and villas in the North East coast of Corfu. Venetian influence is evident in Corfu’s architecture in buildings such as the Paleokastritsa, Peleka and San Salvador (Potts, 2010). Corfu has maintained these structures, together with the Achilleon Palace. Equally, Bethlehem’s Beth Steel Company, which was the second largest steel producer globally, generated steel that was useful in the construction of warships and buildings (Garn, 1999). These structures are a reminder of Bethlehem Steel’s success even if the company no longer exists. Bethlehem, like Corfu, has experienced European influence. According to Sperling and Sander (2006), “Downtown Bethlehem feels like a European city – the German and Moravian influence on the town’s historic buildings is striking.” (p.139). Bethlehem has high learning institutions such as the Moravian College and Lehigh University. Similarly, the Ionian Academy and University are in Corfu (Sperling, & Sander, 2006). The Ionian Islands, in which Corfu is located, have a population of about 40,000 while Bethlehem has a slightly higher number of residents (70,000) (Sperling, & Sander, 2006).
Another similarity is that Corfu and Bethlehem have musical festivities. In Corfu, there are bands that promote the city’s musical tradition. These are the Philharmonic society, Mantzaros and Capodistria (Fleming, 2010). The bands perform concerts and give free music lessons. Another festival common in Corfu is Easter, in which case, the bands accompany the city churches in processions (Fleming, 2010). Bethlehem celebrates the Musikfest every first Friday of August.
It runs for ten days in which there are free music shows, as well as, artist performances. People also enjoy a range of foods from Mexican, German, Caribbean and Puerto Rican cultures (Levering, 2010). The music and cultural festivities of Corfu provide viable opportunities for promoting the city’s tourism industry.
The sister city agreement will promote the tourism sector of Corfu. The agreement is significant in that it will correct the negative image of Greece as an unsafe country. According to the American Ambassador, Daniel Smith, through the agreement, the U.S. wants to assure tourists that Greece is a safe, tourist destination (Fleming, 2010).
In addition, media such as films, television/video documentaries and the Internet are viable channels for promoting tourism in Corfu. For instance, the use of Corfu as the background for one of the scenes in a 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes only, is a creative attempt to promote the city as a tourist attraction (Fleming, 2010).
The image of Corfu as a tourist attraction is also attributable to UNESCO, which has listed the city in the World Heritage List. UNESCO is one of the specialized entities of the United Nations. It aims at promoting international peace and global respect by enhancing cooperation among countries worldwide (UNESCO, 2013). Through the agreement, Bethlehem anticipates achieving similar recognition by UNESCO.
In conclusion, the media, music and cultural festivities are some of the ways through which Corfu can promote itself as a tourist destination. The sister agreement with Bethlehem will also promote Corfu’s tourism industry by portraying the city as a safe destination. Bethlehem also anticipates that the agreement will win it recognition by UNESCO. Both cities share several similarities in terms of culture (religion, music and festivities), presence of high learning institutions and European influence. These similarities strengthen both nations to reinforce the sister agreement they have made.
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