Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis recently submitted a proposal before City Council to establish a tourism development agency in collaboration with the private sector, as part of efforts to raise the Greek capital’s profile as a year-round tourism destination.
The non-profit Athens Tourism and Economic Development Agency will include the City of Athens, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Hellenic Hoteliers Chamber, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, the Hellenic Association of Tourist and Travel Agencies, and the Hellenic Retailers Association.
The municipality considers support and promotion of Athens’ tourism industry vital as the sector has the potential to stimulate the city’s wider economic development.
Along with her proposal, Mayor Bakoyannis presented the policies and achievements of other European cities and Olympic host cities, as well as international tourism trends.
Meanwhile, she said the agency, which is in its formative stages, would act as a platform of cooperation among all relevant agencies and organizations in the Attica region, whose aims will be jointly promoted.
Of a total 350,000 euros in start-up capital, the municipality has contributed 300,000 euros. The agency’s mission is to present Athens as an attractive year-round tourism destination. It has three strategic aims: to combine the strengths of the private sector with the backing of the municipality; to differentiate Athens’ tourism product and boost its competitiveness; and to encourage sustainable tourism development.
“The Athens tourism industry has remained static for a long period of time,” Mayor Bakoyannis told the City Council. “This is impacting negatively on the city’s economy, considering the important role tourism plays in business development and the competitiveness of the economy.
“The Olympic Games brought Athens to the forefront of international attention, offering the city a unique promotional opportunity and the potential to boost development.
“The city’s new infrastructure and its successful hosting of the Games conveyed to the world the impression that Athens is a capital of world-class standards.
“Now that Athens is equipped with modern facilities and services, there is great scope for development in the post-Olympic period.
“We believe that these prospects could become reality through the planning and implementation of a development policy focused on supporting and promoting the city’s tourism sector.”
More specifically, the Mayor referred to business travel and how it represents a crucial share of tourism demand yet is characterized by a very low average number of overnight stays.
She also said that the number of tourist arrivals in Athens and the greater region has remained static over the past 20 years compared with the rest of Greece, and this means that Athens is no longer viewed as an attractive tourism destination and the business traveler has no incentive to prolong his stay here.
The mayor then said that the local tourism industry’s poor performance could be attributed in large part to the fact that no authority exists to publicize the many tourism attractions in Athens and develop a city brand. Other European cities, she said, under-stand the importance of city branding as a tourism development tool – as part of a national, country-branding effort – that is funded via city tourism development associations.
These organizations, she said, have combined their efforts, creating a European network of cooperation, entitled European Cities Tourism. The network’s aim is to raise the competitiveness of these cities as tourist destinations.
The City of Athens, via the municipality’s Development Agency, has formulated a master plan, incorporating a comprehensive business plan, for the creation of the tourism and economic development organization, said Mayor Bakoyiannis.
Furthermore, the municipality of the City of Athens expects to join the European Cities Tourism network in the near future.