This year’s Philoxenia International Tourism Exhibition sported newly designed modern stands, welcomed a continual arrival of visitors, boasted a huge increase in trade visitors, and wrote up what appears to be a record number of business agreements.
And although tourism professionals focused their discussions on the global economic crisis, the 24th Philoxenia proved impressive compared with previous years.
On its part, Helexpo proudly announced that the 24th Philoxenia would go down in history as the most successful organization to date: It posted a 40 percent increase in trade visitors and a 17 percent increase in consumer traffic.
As well, Aristotelis Thomopoulos, president of Helexpo, underlined the fact that for the last four years the Philoxenia tourism exhibition has attracted more attention from abroad and has developed an even stronger role in the wider region of Southeastern Europe.
“This is evident as this year’s Philoxenia saw the participation of 820 exhibitors, up from 803 last year, of which 120 come from abroad, compared with 113 at last year’s event,” he said during the fair’s opening ceremony.
According to Mr. Thomopoulos, due to the current crisis that has afflicted the global economy, such tourism exhibitions offer support to the business market.
“For this reason, the participation of enterprises and sectoral bodies in exhibition events, such as Philoxenia, should be a top priority as it addresses trends and prospects in the worldwide and domestic tourism industry amid the global economic crisis,” he said.
During the inauguration ceremony, Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stressed his ministry’s intention to take all necessary measures to defend the Greek tourism product against the global crisis.
The minister said that the strategy for 2009 will be distinguished by two phases.
The first will include specific actions aimed towards traditional markets such as the UK, Germany and the United States.
The second phase of the 2009 strategy aims to enhance a direct approach towards emerging markets of Eastern European countries (Russia, Ukraine, etc.), as well as China and India where the Greek National Tourism Organization plans to open offices soon.
The tourism minister underlined that tourism is a national matter and he announced the implementation of a national plan for tourism reform.
“For this reason we will organize the first business forum on the national plan for tourism reform in the near future and the main aim will be to demonstrate the vital importance of tourism to the country’s development.”
Mr. Spiliotopoulos also announced the establishment of the new agrotouristiki company namely, “Agricultural Tourism and Mild Recreational Activities” (brand name “Agrotima SA”).
One of the exhibition’s main side events was the 1st European Tourism Conference “Quality in Tourism and Development Perspectives,” organized by Helexpo and Europress Media Group.
The conference, which aimed to underline and indicate the importance of quality in attracting visitors either for business or leisure purposes, was divided into four thematic sections: Congresses & Incentives Tourism; Therapeutic & Spa Tourism; Agritourism; and Technology & Tourism.
During the conference, the president of the GNTO, Athanasios Oikonomou, noted that the international economic crisis is expected to affect Greek tourism revenue, although arrivals are expected to remain at last year’s levels.
“We are not concerned about arrivals, which should not be different from last year, but overnights may be reduced as well as the tourist spending and consequently revenues,” he said.
Mr. Oikonomou underlined the fact that large foreign tour operators have assured that they will not reduce charter flights to Greece.
The president stressed his hope that the hotel industry will show restraint in 2009 and not repeat the price increase (up to 15 percent in many cases) seen in 2008.
During the discussion on conference tourism, HAPCO‘s president, Dinos Astras, referred to an ongoing failure of the Greek state to draw attention to Greek conference tourism on an international level.
Mr. Astras said that the estimated annual turnover of global conference tourism exceeds 200 billion euros and he made reference to future coordinated movements that are foreseen by the tourism ministry.