By Maria Paravantes
Why visit the Ionian islands? In short: you leave a happy (wo)man, you’ve received your money’s worth and your needs have been respected. These, in the words of Spiros Galiatsatos, Vice Governor of Tourism and Promotion for the Ionian Islands Region, are what makes… or breaks tourism.
Representing the Ionian island cluster — Kerkyra, Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaki, Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Kythira — Mr Galiatsatos told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) on the sidelines of the World Travel Market in London, last week, that for any tourism strategy to be effective, there must be a clear understanding of the product.
“We can’t promote anything if we don’t identify it first. Then, once you know what you’ve got, you under-promise and over-deliver,” Mr Galiatsiatos explains, and adds that for the Ionian isles it’s all about creating a melange product of sorts, which means “marrying the popular sea and sun with culture, nature and authenticity”.
“This mix will have an added value and attract the more demanding visitor,” Mr Galiatsatos says.
Despite being popular summer destinations, attracting a higher profile traveler primarily from the UK, Holland, Austria, Italy, Poland and the Scandinavian countries, the Ionian islands suffer from what Mr Galiatsatos calls “seasonality”.
“We need to boost all-year-round tourism to keep people on the islands and holidaymakers coming,” he says.
He also feels strongly about environmental awareness, which he believes is at the basis of understanding the significance of the tourism product.
“We must not abuse the environment as it is what feeds us and only through education can we safeguard our heritage.”
As for the region’s participation in the WTM 2015?
“We strongly believe in and invest in the ‘people factor’. Besides our ongoing communication strategy, the WTM provides a wonderful opportunity to reach out and spread the word face to face,” Mr Galiatsatos says, and adds that the region has already planned promotional actions with CNN and the Travel Channel as well as through social media and an interactive online presence.
“Through the ‘people factor’ – for example, during the summer we organized a series of fam trips and media tours which not only brought journalists, travel writers and bloggers closer to our product but also helped reverse the negative portrayal of Greece in the media.”
On the practical side, the dozens of interviews with media and tour operators, the newly planned fam trips, the food and wine tasting events, all seem to have paid off: Mr Galiatsatos says pre-bookings are already estimated as exceeding those of 2015.