New thoughts and expectations on the future of luxury travel to Greece were expressed at last month’s Exclusive Travel fair held at the Helexpo Palace exhibition center in Athens. The fair, considered a niche event in Greece, is dedicated to luxury travel and directed at those who seek luxurious tourism products and services. This year, the organizers, EuroPartners, hosted (with the support of the Hellenic Tourism Organization) 114 foreign buyers to the fair and arranged for 10 to 20 minute appointments at exhibitor stands.
Participants at Exclusive Travel 2006 said they were pleased with the business carried out as well as the general organization of the fair, which was considered up to par with the sector it represented.
During the fair’s one-day international conference: “Enriching Greek Tourism: Aiming to Extend the Tourism Period,” delegates heard experienced experts in luxury travel from home and abroad discuss proposals for luxury tourism in Greece.
Geoffrey Lipman, special advisor of the general secretary of the EU World Tourism Organization, got the conference off by saying that “the luxury sector is showing itself to be the most resilient part of tourism demand and the fastest growing segment of the market as destinations seek to push up yield and drive down impacts…”
He went on to explain that Greece could be a major gainer from luxury travel. “If you develop your incredible product wisely…(because) affluent travelers are looking for culture, which your country exemplifies. They are looking for history. They are looking for pristine beaches…. You must make preservation and wise growth the core of your development strategy.”
Mr. Lipman was followed by Dick Stroud of the British marketing firm 20plus30. He reminded that Greece’s top tourist countries (Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Scandinavia) have a huge working population that is over 50, and some 22 million that are over 60 years old, and that most are wealthier than any other generation, and travel extensively.
“Each year until 2025 we will see more and more older, wealthier tourists, and less younger and poorer tourists,” he predicted. As well, he said recent studies show that travelers over 53 tend to vacation for an average of 13 days, while the 34 to 52 age group vacation for an average of nine days.
Mr. Stroud added that for the 50-plus traveler, Greece is in an ideal position to satisfy their demand for trips that are adventurous (nature and outdoor activities), educational (especially historical), and include unique cultural experiences (themed holidays, such as wine history and culture).
However, he said that we must rethink the meaning of luxury and realize that “new seniors” are very different. For example, he said, Europe’s affluent older population is fueling the demand for permanent and seasonal retirement residents.
The idea of resident homes was taken up later by Vassilis Mantzos (he established Olympic Holidays in London in 1966) of Faber Maunsell Hellas. He said that in the past decade some 10 million tourist residences have been sold around the world.
“I believe if we fully utilize the gigantic possibilities that Greece offers in creating tourist residences, this would greatly drive our tourism.” He said many younger seniors want to invest in a residence where there’s a good climate, friendly people and lots of tourism interests; and Greece provides more of the aforementioned than most other countries.
“Greece could become the California of Europe,” he said. However, he added, at the moment Greece is far behind in its development of tourism residents with demand far exceeding what’s on offer.