The audience of the recent Capital + Vision multi-conference held in Thessaloniki took a trip down memory lane during a roundtable discussion attended by the three honorary presidents of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
SETE is Greece’s main tourism body.
This was the first time all three former presidents of SETE – Spyros Kokotos, Stavros Andreadis and Nikos Aggelopoulos – sat together for a public roundtable discussion.
1991: Establishing SETE, a voice for Greek tourism
Back in the ’90s, a group of entrepreneurs got together after the State showed inability to resolve the tourism sector’s chronic problems and devise a long-term strategy for its development.
Spyros Kokotos: “Our aim was to promote quality in Greek tourism”
“We decided to establish SETE following a meeting I called in 1991 with nine other entrepreneurs from the broader tourism sector. We were very concerned about the growth of Greek tourism,” Spyros Kokotos, SETE’s first president remembers.
According to SETE, back then, the lack of representation for tourism entrepreneurs and their inactivity in undertaking initiatives, created a risk of degradation for the tourism product and reduction of the country’s competitiveness.
“The association began with 19 members and back then we met once a week and discussed tourism for three hours,” he added.
Mr. Kokotos said that during the early years, there was much skepticism in regards to SETE’s role.
He added that it took much effort to convince prime ministers and ministers – as well as entrepreneurs – on the need of the association for the sake of tourism.
Stavros Andreadis: “My aim was to bring the sector together”
“When I took over, my main goal was to gradually convince associations and unions to all come together under one umbrella, to join this association that was beginning to blossom,” Stavros Andreadis told the audience.
However, besides trying to persuade tourism professionals to join the association, politicians also had to be convinced as they were suspicious of SETE’s intentions.
“We faced many reactions until a few, high-spirited people understood that a collective and organized view was necessary for the sake of Greek tourism,” Mr. Andreadis said.
The association gradually succeeded and gained recognition from both the State and entrepreneurs.
“In the end we made it,” Mr. Andreadis concluded with a smile.
However, he noted that Greek tourism is going through tough times and still has a long way to go.
Mr. Aggelopoulos then referred to the connection of tourism with agriculture. “If we can persuade everyone that giving priority and a powerful boost to the sectors of tourism and agriculture, Greece can reach a very high level,” he said.
Greek tourism today
The three honorary presidents then commented on the current events surrounding Greece’s tourism sector.
Mr. Kokotos underlined the need to enrich the Greek tourism product through new forms of tourism and insisted that quality must everyone’s be top priority.
“The tourist must see quality in Greece, from inside a luxury resort to the inside of a taxi cab,” he said.
On his part, Mr. Andreadis stressed the need for those involved in the tourism field to receive proper training and education.
All three honorary presidents agreed that Greek hoteliers must remember that when dealing with tourists they are not only selling “sea and sun” but are selling “Greece.”