The tourist volume will be turned up this weekend as on Sunday 9 November thousands of runners from Greece and some 100 countries will test their endurance in the various races of the 32nd Athens Marathon, the Greek capital’s leading sporting event.
This year, the “Athens Marathon. Τhe Authentic” event has attracted record-breaking numbers of participants. Some 35,000 runners will be in the streets of Athens on Sunday.
Marathon Runners/visitors: An economic boost for Athens
Athens-based businesses (hotels, restaurants, shops) are looking forward to an economic boost during what would otherwise be a quiet autumn weekend, considering that November is out of Greece’s main tourism season.
With participation of foreign runners up 35 percent this year, the Athens Marathon is perhaps one of the best advertisements for the Greek capital’s tourism since numbers are increasing year by year.
However, although the good news, this increase in runners has highlighted a “pleasant” problem, the president of the marathon’s organizer SEGAS (Greek Athletics Federation), Kostas Panagopoulos, recently pointed out: the Athens Marathon has reached its limits in terms of participation.
“We must examine what changes are needed (investments in infrastructure among other things) in order to meet growing demand. This year we had over 3,000 people on a waiting list for the 5 km race and in the end we could not meet the demand,” Mr. Panagopoulos said at a recent press conference.
SEGAS needs the Greek State and local government to step in and become even more involved for the support of future marathons.
According to statements given to GTP by Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) Secretary General Panos Livadas, both the city and the state acknowledge the importance of the Athens Marathon for the city.
GTP gets viewpoint of Athens Mayor and GNTO Secretary General
“The city of Athens continuously seeks to achieve the best possible cooperation with all stakeholders and acts accordingly with the Athens Marathon for its smooth and successful organization,” Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said.
On his part, GNTO’s secretary general, Panos Livadas, said that the Tourism Ministry and the GNTO have a very close relationship with the marathon and traditionally have been offering their support, “even in difficult times such as these” and will continue to do so in the future.
“The Athens Marathon is an important component of Greece’s communicative identity as it combines cultural and sports elements and therefore tourism elements,” Mr. Livadas said.
Athens Marathon: A mega-event
According to the eighth UNWTO Ministers’ Summit, held in London at the World Travel Market, mega-events and tourism go hand in hand.
The key message of the summit was that mega-events can deliver long-term benefits for hosting destinations and its people by boosting their image and infrastructure development and expanding the job market.
For the mayor of Athens, several marathons around the world, have been established and promoted as world-class mega-events, but for the City of Athens, the Athens Marathon is not simply a mega-event.
“It is an ideal mega-event, which takes place every year and which can grow further, significantly, in terms of participant and visitor numbers,” Mayor Kaminis said.
The mayor underlined that the challenge of the run is the event’s main objective, but alongside there is opportunity for educational and historical activities, scientific studies, social networking and the fascinating experience that Athens can offer to any visitor, as a tourism destination.
The GNTO shares the same opinion.
“The Athens Marathon has all the characteristics of a mega-event. The marathon is part of our identity. It is part of our history. Communication wise it offers huge added value to both Athens and Greece,” the GNTO’s secretary general sad.
Mr. Livadas highlighted the siginificant effort SEGAS is making and believes that very soon the Athens Marathon will be the Greek capital’s “mega-event” with a popular appeal and global significance. “The marathon could give a boost to major key interventions in the tourism field,” he said.
He added that the Athens Marathon could be linked with other global events, such as the Winter Olympics.
Can the Marathon become the Greek capital’s “tourist attraction” every November and thus contribute to the season’s extension?
According to Mayor Kaminis, an event of this size and nature, can spread its benefits to all market sectors involved, like transports and accommodation, meetings, tours and recreation.
The mayor highlighted that the city’s tourism professionals are now showing a much better understanding of the Marathon’s importance.
On its part, the GNTO is already communicating the Athens Marathon as part of the Greek capital’s city break image.
Mr. Livadas did, however, point out that the success of the Greek capital’s tourist product depends on other factors as well, among which are issues involving airports and the opening times of museums. He also added the needed support for the city’s commercial activity to run as many days of the year as possible (referring to the issue of shops in Athens opening on Sundays).
He underlined that the tourism ministry and the GNTO often receive messages relating to such topics and, although they do not fall into its responsibilities, “the ministry and the GNTO function as a mediator to inform and lobby.”
“The aim is for our involvement to lead to steps forward… It is our duty to do this and we do it,” he concluded.
Each Marathon runner from abroad is expected to spend 1,000 euros, on average, on accommodation, food, participation in the race, tickets to museums, gifts etc, the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association confirmed to the Greek media.
Overall, it is estimated that this year the Athens Marathon, as a sports event, will give a big business boost to the city of some 15 million euros.
GTP is the main tourism communication sponsor for the Athens Marathon. Τhe Authentic.