Europe’s tourism specialists seem to be coming around to the view that the era of Greek improvisation is over and that a long-term strategy is evolving. “In 2005, you will see the first recovery signs, but the significant rise will come in the next few years when the results of your new policy become evident,” said the president of the International Federation of Tour Operators (IFTO), Martin Brackenbury.
Privately, he said that the change would no doubt be a gradual one as “you can’t turn around a huge bulk oil tanker quickly, it takes time.” But he reminded that although we’ve heard the story before, this time if there’s funding and private support I see it happening. And although at separate meetings with Greece’s state tourism leaders, both Mr. Brackenbury and the chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT), Steven Freudmann, stressed that the positive messages delivered by Greece’s tourism minister during their meetings would materialize only if measures that have been announced are implemented. They add, however, that there are exciting possibilities with Greece’s new structure, its government’s sensible plans and the new emphasis on quality.
The two senior tourism specialists spent some time speaking with the official heads of Greece’s tourism sector during the recent World Travel Market exhibition held in London. At each meeting were Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos; his deputy minister, Anastassios Liaskos; Hellenic Tourism Organization’s president, Haris Kokkosis; and tourism education president, Aristidis Kalogeropoulos.
During the talks, Mr. Avramopoulos said that Athens would host new conference centers this year. Mr. Freudmann replied that both IFTO and ITT were looking at the possibility of holding their annual conferences in Greece during 2006. The IFTO annual congress committee is looking at Athens as a venue while the smaller ITT congress has a preference, at the moment, for the island of Crete.
Mr. Freudmann stressed, however, that one of Greece’s main objectives ought to be offering visitors easy access with direct flights to its domestic destinations, especially the islands. “We warmly support the new Greek efforts and are happy that the minister views us as partners,” he said.
Mr. Avramopoulos also announced that priority to important markets for Greek tourism, such as the United States. To this end, he said he would head for Los Angeles right after the fair.
Advertising in the U.S. market, he said, will intensify and new tourism offices will open in American cities where deemed necessary. He further mentioned investor interest in Greece after the Olympics and noted that in a recent survey abroad 70 percent of people questioned expressed their wish to visit Greece.
Mr. Liaskos said that Greece’s post-Olympic target is to become a dynamic destination for exhibitions and conferences and to attract international sporting events.