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Thessaloniki Aiming to Become Sports Tourism Destination Through Marathon Events

The Region of Central Macedonia and the MEAS Triton sports federation of Thessaloniki are aiming to position Greece’s second largest city on the map of sports tourism destinations through two major events that are attracting more visitors year by year.

MEAS Triton is the organizer of the International Marathon Alexander the Great and the International Thessaloniki Night Halfmarathon, two “mega events” that take place in Thessaloniki, according to MEAS Triton President Christina Karamichos.

Karamichos was recently part of a delegation of the Region of Central Macedonia, headed by the Vice Governor for Tourism & Culture, Thanos Alexandros, that attended the recent World Travel Market trade show in London. During WTM 2017, a presentation of the city of Thessaloniki and the marathon events was given to international media representatives and leading foreign travel agencies, aiming to attract even more runners to the 2018 editions of Thessaloniki’s marathons.

MEAS Triton President Christina Karamichos, Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism & Culture Thanos Alexandros, Tourism Development Consultant for Thessaloniki marathons Christoforos Aivazidis.

MEAS Triton President Christina Karamichos, Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism & Culture Thanos Alexandros, Tourism Development Consultant for Thessaloniki marathons Christoforos Aivazidis.

According to Central Macedonia’s vice governor for tourism & culture, the Region is looking to promote activities that will attract tourists all year round.

Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism & Culture Thanos Alexandros at the GTP stand at WTM 2017 in London.

Central Macedonia Vice Governor for Tourism & Culture Thanos Alexandros at the GTP stand at WTM 2017 in London.

Referring to the marathons specifically, Alexandros underlined that the events are “not just sporting events” but celebrations of the city, that can become a point of reference in Thessaloniki’s promotion to markets abroad.

The vice governor added that many marathons take place throughout the region during different seasons and that the region is looking to promote this in order to attract sports tourists throughout the year.

Moreover, Alexandros said that the Thessaloniki marathons are becoming so popular that plans will include upgrades to infrastructure.

“This is a major issue. When you shape demand, you must also secure infrastructure and services, because this is not only about having enough hotel beds, but also the services that support the thematic experience,” he told GTP Headlines. “When you want to attract a visitor, he or she must know where they will stay, when and where the city is accessible and they can get around. So we are referring to improvements in the infrastructure of facilities or services.”

International Marathon Alexander the Great

The International Marathon Alexander the Great is set to take place April 1, 2018.

In its 13th year, the International Marathon Alexander the Great is considered the top sports event of Northern Greece, organized by MEAS Triton, which is licensed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and under the auspices of the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO. The event is co-organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the Region of Central Macedonia and has the support of over 150 organizations and bodies.

MEAS Triton President Christina Karamichos speaking to GTP's Managing Editor Nikos Krinis.

MEAS Triton President Christina Karamichos speaking to GTP’s Managing Editor Nikos Krinis.

“This event is of social, cultural, environmental, tourism and above all historical significance and it is the perfect representative of our city, of our Macedonia and our country, worldwide,” Karamichos told GTP Headlines. The marathon is member of the International Marathons Association (AIMS) and is also included on the official annual calendar. The International Marathon Alexander the Great includes a number of side events, including the Sport Expo that takes place in the city’s conference and expo center (TIF-Helexpo), which lead up to the main event.

Karamichos said that runners that arrive to Thessaloniki from other countries, usually choose to stay for three to four extra days, boosting the destination’s reputation as a city break destination as well.

“The event contributes very much to the local economy as all the shops receive business from the number of visitors,” she said, adding that MEAS Triton has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Thessaloniki Trade Association. According to the memorandum, marathon participants can enjoy dining as well as other services in the city at privileged prices.

30,000 runners expected in 2018

According to Karamichos, the event attracts international participation from over 60 countries, including Kenya and Nigeria, as well as runners from Europe and Asia.

“The marathon is a growing tourism product that gives us an increase of over 20 percent each year in participations,” she said, adding that the 2018 marathon is expected to attract some 30,000 runners from all over the world.

Karamichos added that MEAS Triton is currently in talks with a number of tourism professionals in order to create travel packages for a number of different markets, including Turkey, Israel and China. Travel packages that will include visits to various points of interest of Central Macedonia are also being planned.

In regards to the UK market, Karamichos said that the event attracts a British team of many runners that choose Thessaloniki’s marathon as they can combine their participation with getting to know the Northern Greek city’s culture, history, gastronomy and entertainment.

International Thessaloniki Night Halfmarathon

Thessaloniki is also home to the International Thessaloniki Night Halfmarathon, which held its latest edition on October 14 and attracted over 21,000 runners of all ages, from 12 to 95 years old.

The next night halfmarathon will take place October 13, 2018. In its seventh year, the event has earned the reputation of the largest night street party in Greece.

According to Karamichos, Thessaloniki’s halfmarathon year by year is seeing more foreign athletes coming to the city to take part.

“We invite everyone to Thessaloniki, to meet the city, to run and to enjoy the party that takes place through the halfmarathon,” she said.


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