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Athens Convention Bureau Taken Off Back Burner

Many years have passed since the local tourism trade called for the creation of a conference and visitor’s bureau for the Athens area. Since then, not a single positive step has been taken, but the idea remains as not only a viable one but also a vital one to implement.

Now, Yiannis Patelis, the Hellenic Tourism Organization‘s new chairman, says he is ready to place the idea back on the front burner and examine the possibility of creating such a non-profit venture, but only with the participation of the leading people and organizations within the country’s tourism trade.

Already, he has held initial discussions with the City of Athens, the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourism Agents, the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers, and representatives from the country’s local and prefecture authorities. They all agreed to participate in such an endeavor and discussed what would be the most appropriate form the bureau should take and the how it could be best operated.

Athens is the world’s only major tourism destination without a convention bureau (Thessaloniki is the country’s only city with a convention and visitors’ bureau) where potential venue seekers can get all information necessary to organize a convention here. A bureau also promotes the destination as an ideal convention venue. However, Athens is also one of the world’s few major capitals without a full-fledged convention center.

At a later time last month, Mr. Patelis said during an informal meeting with the tourism press corps that the conference bureau “is a priority, and when it gets off the ground we will work on a similar structure for other major Greek conference venues.”

And during a recent press conference, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said the initial phase to go ahead and plan for an Athens conference center has been completed.

Within 10 days (end of January) we will announce the next steps. Our target is to have tangible results for the properties that are owned by the Hellenic Tourism Organization and managed by its subsidiary Hellenic Tourism Properties, he said.

Mr. Patelis is an economist and engineer with experience in financial and technical studies for the management and evaluation of European Union programs, and in tourism studies, the tourism organization said in a statement.

He has worked for the European Union in evaluating the bloc’s Mediterranean funding programs, and for the tourism organization as an adviser on managing the EU’s Second Community Support Framework funds.

Mr. Patelis, who replaced Evgenios Yiannakopoulos, has also conducted tourism growth studies including golf and conference tourism. He is a member of AIEST, a world organization of tourism experts.

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