But the wary star at WTM was the global economy.
The fair drew some 45,000 travel professionals and boasted a participation of 5,500 exhibitors.
The four-day travel industry event, held at ExCeL London, once again brought together worldwide buyers and sellers from every sector of the industry, this time, however, amid a global financial crisis.
But the secretary general of the WTM, Francesco Frangialli, claimed that tourism will survive with the support of its own strength.
“There will be no tourism tsunami,” he stressed at the World Travel Market Ministers’ Summit. “We do not need a stimulus package for the industry,” he added.
“When the time comes, tourism will contribute to the revival of the economy as a whole.” Mr. Frangialli added that the outlook for 2008 is not all that negative as international arrivals up to the end of August registered a steady increase of 3.8 percent on an annual basis.
“Whatever happens, there will be positive growth in real terms,” he said.
On the home front, Greece this year presented a new image as a tourist destination at World Travel Market, according to Greek Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos. He said that over the past year Greece has presented a new image with new aesthetics and a new strategy that moves on two levels.
The first level involves the worldwide promotion of Greece’s new brand identity. “The new brand identity aims to move beyond ‘sea and sun’ and incorporate the nine sectors of Greece’s tourism product,” Mr. Spiliotopoulos said.
“These sectors involve: holiday tourism, marine tourism, cultural tourism, excursion tourism, conference tourism, rural tourism, health and well-being tourism, luxury tourism, and city breaks.”
The second level, according to the minister, is the adaptation of the ministry’s 2009 advertising campaign to digital technology because it is user-friendly, flexible and ecological (www.visitgreece.gr).
The tourism minister hopes to maintain Greek tourism’s share in 2009 at the levels of the year before in the midst of the global economic crisis.
Mr. Spiliotopoulos said that the ministry shows optimism and deep faith in the forces of Greek tourism to cope with the complex economic environment and will move under a strategic plan that will shield Greek tourism and enhance its competitiveness.
In the framework of the minister’s visit to the WTM, he gave a press conference to Greek and foreign media where he underlined that Greek tourism can strengthen the country’s economy and act as antidote to the “toxicity” of the recession. He also referred to the high importance the U.K. market has on Greek tourism.
“The U.K. market is very important for Greece as British visitors offer a great deal to holiday tourism,” he said. “In statistical terms, tourists from the U.K. to Greece over the last six years average 2.6 million arrivals annually.”
Mr. Spiliotopoulos said that for the upcoming season the ministry will invest some 3.5 million euros for the promotion of Greece in the U.K. alone.
This amount comes from a total of some 40 million euros the ministry will spend on next year’s tourist campaign, which again will bear the title “Greece the true experience.”
During the WTM, major travel agents TUI and Thomas Cook predicted that their offices would see an increase in tourists visiting Greece.
The minister also mentioned that some 280 investments that relate to the creation of new hotels with a total capacity of 26,000 beds are in the process to be subjected within the development law.
Journalists were informed that in order to facilitate the tourist wave Greece is examining the possibility of approaching the low-cost company Ryanair to fly at regional airports.
In the framework of the WTM, Mr. Spiliotopoulos met with the leadership of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s, secretary general, Francesco Frangialli, and deputy secretary general, Taleb Rifai.
Next year’s WTM will be held from 9 to 12 November.