By Maria Paravantes
“Skiathos is a home away from home, it’s safe and friendly and we know our visitors by their first names,” Panos Diolettas, president of the Skiathos Tourism Development Committee, told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) on the sidelines of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London earlier this week.
Skiathos is a lush westernmost island in the Northern Sporades, east of Mt Pelion. It’s also the filming location for the 2008 blockbuster “Mamma Mia” featuring Meryl Streep. And although Hollywood may have given the Greek isle a “push”, the local authorities have not rested on their laurels.
“We might be a small island but we’ve invested a great deal in the promotion of Skiathos,” explains Mr Diolettas, who is also a city councillor.
“Our strategy is three-pronged: it includes participation in 12 tourism fairs in Greece and abroad, among them two for alternative tourism, a far-reaching communication plan to include media and social media, and of course, making sure our visitors leave Skiathos with a full heart. Why? Because a happy traveler will say so… and then bring in 10 new visitors.”
Mr Diolettas is proud of his island: “No one can ever get bored on Skiathos, first of all you can visit two more Greek islands in a day — neighboring Skopelos and Alonissos — you can also do so many things on Skiathos, like hiking, scuba diving, horse riding, swimming, trekking and day sailing,” he says.
Skiathos did experience some problems this summer with many Greek travelers cancelling after the announcement of capital controls and amid the political turmoil. “It was not a very good period,” he says, and adds that foreign holidaymakers — the island’s main markets are the UK, Scandinavian countries and Italy and 60-70 percent are return visitors — were concerned due to the negative media coverage.
Mr Diolettas is a staunch supporter of extending the tourism season. “Tourism enterprises cannot operate for four months and then end up paying for 12. Extending the tourism season is a oneway street,” he stresses. “Which can be achieved through alternative forms of tourism. Let’s face it, it’s much more rewarding to go trekking in September than in the scorching heat of July.”
Mr Diolettas concludes that the municipal authority is above all aiming for quality, and adds that “We’re lucky to be living on an island offering many accessibility options… we have an airport, regular ferry services from several locations on the mainland and even the alternative to drive to Katigiorgis, Pelion, and pass on over via sea cab.”
As for the WTM? “We initially came to honor our main market and support it back, and from here offer a channel for local businesses to meet and forge synergies,” he says, hoping that next year the Skiathos WTM participation will include food tastings, parallel events and promotional happenings.