Speaking last week in Athens during a press conference for the upcoming 100% Hotel Show, Mr. Davidson referred to the trends in the international meetings and conference industry.
“The bad news for Greece and every country is that competition to win big events is growing very fast as more and more countries are looking towards the international association conference market and want to host their events,” he said.
According to Mr. Davidson, China apparently is a new competitor for Greece and other Mediterranean countries and even the United States.
“China is building and building very big conference centers, very big conference hotels, very quickly. They are an example of a new competitor.”
Greece needs a parallel brand to attract more conferences
Referring to Greece’s image as an ideal destination to host major conferences, Mr. Davidson said that in a way, Greece is a victim to its own success as a leisure destination.
“The GNTO does a very good job selling this image of Greece as a destination to relax… But perhaps this is the (only) image of Greece many conference organizers have,” he said.
Mr. Davidson said that Greece’s convention bureaus must create another, parallel brand, one more appealing to international conference organizers.
“That is a challenge and it is not only Greece, as other Mediterranean countries have the same challenge. They have a very strong leisure brand and in parallel are trying to create a business brand for business tourism, to reassure and to demonstrate to meeting planners that their meetings will be a success.”
He added that meeting planners and conference organizers from cities such as London, Frankfurt, Stockholm and New York may possibly still have the image of “pre-Olympics Greece” and not be aware of the country’s infrastructure improvements, modern facilities, metro network and English street signs.
“This means investment. It means bringing these people to Greece for fam trips, showing them around, showing them your most modern hotels, your most modern venues and changing their opinion… You need to bring those business tourism journalists here and let them write about Greece.”
No statistics = Less conferences
“Your statistics, your market intelligence is still not good enough… I think any country which is serious about business tourism needs to have good statistics about demand and supply and about venues and their occupancy rate and if more are needed.”
Mr. Davidson added that holding more international conferences and corporate meetings is considered the most effective way to extend a country’s tourism season since business tourism involves all 12 months of the year.