Athens Development & Destination Management Agency
In just a few months the Greek capital will once again be in the spotlight when the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) launches the second edition of the annual Travel Trade Athens event. Over 70 tour operators, tourism professionals, conference organizers and distinguished journalists from the United States and Europe will get together in Athens to find out all the destination has to offer.
GTP caught up with the agency’s president and Elected Member of the Athens City Council, George Broulias, and got a small preview of what we should expect at the second Travel Trade Athens, along with his opinion on the Greek capital’s potential as an international tourism destination.
By Nikos Krinis, GTP news editor
GTP: During Travel Trade Athens 2013, some 1,400 meetings between the city’s tourism professionals and hosted buyers from abroad were recorded.
So far, what are the results from last year’s event?
Do we know which markets responded more?
What is your feedback from the professionals of Athens?
G. Broulias: The Travel Trade Athens 2013 fulfilled its main purpose: bringing together tourism trade professionals from source markets with local suppliers and at the same time, offering hosted buyers the opportunity to experience more aspects of our destination’s tourism product and services. As far as we know, the b2b meetings lead to several new cooperation agreements while our hosted buyers, broadened their perception of Athens as a city break and MICE destination.
Regarding professionals of Athens, overall, the satisfaction rate was quite high and rewarding. It is a common belief that events of this character can be a very effective way to boost sales and highlight the international image of Athens.
GTP: Although Travel Trade Athens is an international workshop exclusively for destination Athens, you have announced that hosted buyers and suppliers interested in other Greek destinations – in addition to Athens – may participate.
Have you considered that maybe the event would lose its character this way?
G. Broulias: Athens and Attica region are the main destinations showcased during Travel Trade Athens 2014. This year, though, since Greece seats the European Union Presidency for the first semester, we decided to open the event for professionals interested generally in Greece and to offer suppliers from other parts of the country the option to participate. On the contrary, this way we believe that we will attract an even greater number of buyers that are interested both in Athens and the rest of the country.
GTP: Travel Trade Athens 2013 attracted tourism professionals from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Israel, Japan and India.
Do you expect participation from additional markets this year?
G. Broulias: Up to this date, we have registrations from other important source markets as well, like the United States, Canada, Argentina, Saoudi Arabia, China and the Scandinavian market.
GTP: This year’s event includes a three-day hospitality program for the hosted buyers, during which tours of the city will take place along with presentations of the tourism products and competitive advantages of metropolitan Athens as a tourism destination.
In brief, what exactly will the program include?
G. Broulias: Actually, we have prepared programs with different options, tailored to the needs of the Leisure, MICE professionals and for media representatives respectively. We aim to include sites and venues that best reflect our City’s “experience hot spots,” combining our historical legacy, the diverse natural beauty, the culture and the “face” of modern Athens, the Athenian gastronomy and “good life.” The idea behind these hospitality programs is to showcase to our hosted professionals the wide range of choice that a visitor has when visiting Athens, for business or for leisure. Beyond, of course, the main and more well-known historical and cultural attractions.
GTP: Travel Trade Athens will also include a workshop on Urban Tourism Development.
Which topics will be focused on?
G. Broulias: This year’s forum will focus in issues concerning urban tourism development trends and best practices, city tourism planning and its main topics will also include the role and the importance of tourism in cities and the development of urban experiences for visitors and residents. We have also included in this year’s forum, best practices and case studies from destinations that have implemented urban development to boost the city’s tourism economy.
GTP: Which unique experiences can the city of Athens offer tourists, according to the Athens Development & Destination Management Agency?
G. Broulias: Athens is a year-round destination of unique natural and urban elements and unique selling points. It is a modern vibrant European capital with a 5.000 year old history evident in almost every part of its central areas and fully accessible through the largest archaeological park in Europe. It is a safe and friendly city, set on a fascinating natural and diverse landscape. State or the art infrastructure and venues, great hotels, countless suggestions for gastronomy, cultural experiences and fun, for shopping or for seaside activities – Athens is the European capital with the most Blue Flag awarded beaches and with several picturesque islands nearby – as it enjoys a wonderful year-round climate.
GTP: Do you believe that Athens is on the right track to become a major destination for foreign visitors and not just a stopover destination before or after a trip to the Greek islands?
G. Broulias: For the first time in years, Athens is supported by a complete and in-depth Strategy Plan for Tourism Development and Promotion, professionally prepared by the City of Athens and being implemented by ADDMA and the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau ACVB. One of the main goals of this plan is to establish Athens as one of the leading city-break and MICE destinations on international level, a destination of primary choice for most visitors, in these fields. This is why the elements mentioned earlier have been integrated in our main promotion and marketing planning and this is how we can strengthen the City’s place in main source markets.
Nevertheless, using Athens as a stopover destination for other parts of Greece is still a valuable part of business. The cruise sector, in particular, especially now that cruises start and end in Piraeus port, with passengers spending a few nights in the City either before embarking or after their cruise, is a rapidly developing market segment, both in terms of overnights and of spending.
GTP: What steps have been taken to support this?
G. Broulias: Under the Municipality’s development program, called The Athens Project, ADDMA utilizes European financial resources and tools for integrated interventions to the urban fabric of the city through redevelopment, improvements and recovering of public spaces, with the aim of revitalizing the urban landscape. Tourism actions are included in special development pillar, given the special added value of the industry to the local economy and community, and for the international image of the city and the country.
In particular, there are interventions for the aesthetic enhancement of the urban landscape, the renewal of public spaces, the protection and enhancement of the natural and built environment of the city, and the restoration of deteriorated areas. There are also plans for more hot spots offering free wi-fi internet access, improvement of signage, more info-points for visitors etc.
On the other hand, as we speak, there are some major development and investment plans under way. The new Opera House and new National Library plan, at the Faliron area, will be ready by the end of 2015. The international tender for the development of the 5.800 stremmas (580 hectares) area at Ellinikon, is up and running, leading to the largest and more extensive seaside development project in Europe, with parks, recreation areas, marinas, hotels, malls etc.
GTP: Athens and conference tourism. How do you comment on this “relationship” and do you think that the current infrastructure covers the needs for the development of this market?
Mr. Broulias: Athens is an ideal MICE destination. Not only because of its accommodation and conference facilities and the tourism services, but also because it is the cradle of the western civilization and the place where most Sciences and Arts evolved to higher levels.
The ACVB, the official MICE board of the City, follows a strategic marketing and promotion plan which aims to establish Athens among the best and most popular conference and meetings destinations worldwide.
The ACVB is handling swiftly and effectively all kind of requests placed by events organizers, Associations, potential clients, international organizations and media, regarding events, conferences, corporate meetings, fam trips, site inspections or any other kind of support to anyone interested in considering Athens for their event.
Its Members Scheme counts over 90 members – hotels, conference centers, tourism companies, venues, Trade Unions and Associations etc. – proving that cooperation with the private sector can really make a difference and maximize the effectiveness of any targeted and carefully planed action .
We all know that Athens experienced four very rough years and went through a storm of negative publicity. We believe that the City proved to be quite resilient, despite some losses and that with the painstaking effort that all parties involved pulled together and with the ACVB being present and fully active and proactive during all this period, the worse is now over.
GTP: The institution of Travel Trade Athens kicked off last year as part of the strategy of the Municipality of Athens for the targeted promotion of Athens in the international tourism market.
What other promotional actions should the professionals of Athens expect as part of this strategy?
Mr. Broulias: As I mentioned earlier, ADDMA and the ACVB, are following a detailed and extensive plan for promoting Athens overseas. Last year we also organized the Black Sea Tourism Workshop and Forum and currently, we are examining options for similar events that we could possibly host in Athens.
The ACVB is present at most major Tourism and Trade Exhibitions, e.g. WTM, ITB, MITT, BITT, EIBTM, IMEX etc. and we are constantly researching new opportunities and emerging markets. Last October, the ACVB participated in IMEX USA with its own stand, in cooperation with its members and we are making similar plans for a series of exhibitions, workshops and forums for this year, as well.
Furthermore, we have upgraded and redesigned our web and social media profiles, and we renewed or updated all our promotional material and guides.
GTP: We constantly hear that efforts are being made (by the Municipality of Athens, the Region of Attica, the Tourism Ministry, etc) to make Athens one of the most attractive “city break” destinations.
Do you believe the capital will gain this reputation and recover in 2014?
Mr. Broulias: According to all available data and numbers, up to date, Athens expects a very good tourism season, this year. Confidence in our destination seems to be highly restored and this is evident at the 2013 figures, as Athens returned to increased numbers of arrivals, with an annual percentage of over +2,5%.
We have some other major news that justify our optimism, like the decision of Ryanair to establish a hub at the Athens International Airport, from April, a move that will improve tourism flow to the destination, while other air carriers, like Aegean Airlines are about to increase the number of their flights from many European source markets.
In addition, we have new hotels opening in the City while the sale of the historic Astir Palace complex, in Vouliagmeni, signals a greater international investment interest.
We are intensifying our efforts to take advantage of these positive signs and to place Athens as one of the hot destinations for 2014.
Travel Trade Athens 2014 will take place 14-15 April at the Megaron Athens International Conference Center.
Click here to register to attend Travel Trade Athens 2014. The registration deadline is 28 February 2014 while special offers are available for those who register by 31 January 2014.
– The photographs of this article were provided by City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau.