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Greece Welcomes Sports Tourism, Still Needs to Set a Target

Running in "Santorini Experience". Photo by Babis Giritziotis

‘Santorini Experience’. Photo by Babis Giritziotis

By Maria Paravantes on Santorini

In the last decade or so all the more destinations in Greece are tapping into sports as a way to promote their offerings and attract visitors. Diversification has undoubtedly been a concept talked about among the sector’s professional circles but is sports tourism the next big thing?

According to data presented on Friday at the IMIC 2017 tourism conference held in Santorini, locals, participants and organizers welcome the idea. In fact, the findings of a survey carried out in July-September 2017 shows that organizers expect the specialized tourism product to grow by 4.3 percent this year.

“It’s undoubtedly an area with great potential for growth, and Greece is an ideal destination due to its geography and climate,” Petros Bouchoris, a lecturer at the Hellenic Open University, tells the GTP Headlines after presenting the data on Friday. But he was quick to point out that a lot of work still needs to be done.

“There are many issues that must be addressed mainly that of planning both long- and short-term, having a clear vision in place and setting a target,” he says.

Petros Bouchoris, Lecturer at the Hellenic Open University

Petros Bouchoris, lecturer at the Hellenic Open University.

Bouchoris, who is also the owner and CEO of RunninGreece, a company making travel and registration arrangements for such events, adds that local communities, hoteliers and tourism stakeholders have all been supportive of sporting initiatives but the events remain “introverted”, which means they are carried out for the “fun of it” rather than as a tool to tap into a new and lucrative market niche.

The survey found that financial gain and following the trend actually come behind satisfaction. Currently, 75 percent of the participants are locals, 15 percent are Greek tourists and 10 percent are from abroad, staying 1.1 nights on average at the host destination.

Andros Trail Race

Organizers polled said special offers by hotels, parallel activities and the routes specified contribute to the success of an event.

The report further reveals that sporting or running clubs are the main organizers of such events, the 5km race is the most popular option and 20 percent of all events in Greece have been taking place for over a decade. Indicatively, the Navarino Challenge, the Spetses Mini Marathon , the Athens Marathon which was listed by forbes.com as worth traveling to Europe for, and the Zagori mountain race have set the example.

Athens Marathon – The Authentic.

In the last few years, running and endurance events are being organized across Greece with particular emphasis on the islands, the most recent being the Santorini Experience and the Andros Trail Race.

Bouchoris added that the next part of the study will include participants and sponsors.


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