After last year’s fiasco, the London office of the Hellenic Tourism Organization worked closely with the head office this year. In the end, the office and its staff did a superior job in organizing its Greek presentation at one of the world’s biggest travel and tourism fairs, World Travel Market, held in London from November 10-13.
The Greek pavilion was well laid out, bright and spacious. It was also the first seen on entering the fair’s European section. Greek exhibitors within the pavilion, however, said many regulars stayed away this year and perhaps they will do the same next year.
Generally, they said that the flow of arrivals from the UK to Greece this year was about the same as last year when a record 3 million British holidaymakers arrived, but that package prices were at rock bottom level, which made it very difficult to cover costs. For next year, they expect to see pretty much the same picture with perhaps even more emphasis on last-minute bookings, which means a continuation of rock-bottom prices.
Their forecast was bolstered by a study released during the fair by Terry McCarty of ACNielson done on behalf of the Greek tourism organization’s London office. One of the main points in the study was that Greece does not attract family travel from Britain. It was found that 70% of arrivals here from the UK were singles. For next year, the study foresees an increase in family travel but only if cheap packages are available. (Four specialized tour operators in the UK handle about 40% of all travel from there to Greece.)
For 2004, Mr. McCarty said he expects that British travelers will not book their holidays in advance but rather they will wait till the last minute to choose the cheapest packages available. He said that bookings in September for 2004 summer holidays were down 43% when compared with the same period last year. He stressed that British travelers are now looking at the best possible package price and not a preferred destination.
On a more general scale, IPK International presented visitors to the fair with a bleak tourism picture for 2003, but forecast a slightly better one for 2004. Travel, it said, is expected to increase substantially over last year -if nothing earth shattering occurs in the meantime- but tourism revenue will show a much smaller increase.
The company said that travelers are more concerned today about safety and health than ever before and that they will continue to take shorter holidays but will do so frequently in the run of a year.
The study presented also showed a strong tendency toward economic holidays where travelers will show a preference for low-cost carriers, but good destination accommodation. They will also continually check the Internet for savings on travel and holiday packages, and will prefer destinations with beauty pampering and educational opportunities.
A disappointing part of the fair was the participation of Athens 2004. The stand was there within the tourism organization’s pavilion, and was well manned, but that was all. There were no events, no promotional activities, nothing; not even a couple dressed as Athina and Fivos to spark a little interest. It is no wonder that a recent study by Deloitte and Touche says that Athens will see nothing near the 41.5% increase in arrivals that Barcelona registered during the 1992 Games.