Greek tourism is expected to enjoy further growth in 2016 it was understood during the 36th World Travel Market (WTM), held November 2-5 on the fairgrounds of ExCeL–London. The WTM is the leading global event for the travel industry.
At the time of the WTM, released data revealed that early bookings from the UK market to Greece for the 2016 tourism season were already seeing a one-digit increase.
Throughout the days of the WTM, the majority of Greek tourism professionals and regional representatives stated that the UK travel market was showing a great interest for the country as a destination and were keen on discussing strategies and partnerships for the coming season.
More good news: Greek Tourism hits another record year in 2015
But the good news doesn’t stop here as, according to Greek officials and professionals, the capital controls, the July 5th referendum, the refugee influx and general political instability did not discourage foreign travelers from coming to Greece, leading the year to close with another record of arrivals.
Many professionals said that 2015 was closing either with a small increase or around the same level of the previous year.
“In 2014, Greece saw an exceptional 23 percent increase in arrivals from all overseas markets. Building on the success of 2014, and for the third consecutive year, we are delighted to report 2015 has also proved to be a fantastic year for Greek tourism and we are proud it is one of the main factors driving recovery in the economy”, said Christina Kalogera, Director of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) UK & Ireland Office.
Greece’s tourism industry expects 2015 to be another record year for arrivals and revenue with arrivals reaching 26 million and revenue of 14.5 billion euros.
UK tour operators on Greece: “Business as usual”
During a special networking event of the GNTO on the first day of the WTM, tour operators to Greece Sunvil and TUI and said that it was “business as usual” for UK tour operators selling holidays in the country this year despite its well publicised problems with the economy and refugees.
According to GNTO data, in the year to August, Greece saw a 25 percent increase in arrivals from the UK, welcoming approximately 1.8 million British visitors compared to 1.4 million in the same period last year, and a staggering 33.5 percent increase of travel receipts.
The UK tour operators seemed optimistic for 2016, although they avoided giving estimates for next season.
Kountoura: Greece to target the shoulder season
While representing Greece during the WTM, Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura held meetings with British tour operators and focused on Greek tourism’s quantitative targets for 2016, opportunities for developing new products and destinations and expanding the season.
While speaking during the GNTO’s networking event, Ms Kountoura revealed that Greece’s main priority will be to attract tourists in the shoulder and non-peak season months.
As announced, the GNTO is in the process of preparing new promotional campaigns for next year, promoting innovative and unique Greece holiday experiences that will showcase the country’s culture, nature, city break and sustainable tourism options.
The alternate minister also focused on the ministry’s strategy to further promote Greece in the United Kingdom.
Greek cuisine at GNTO stand
Throughout the days of the exhibition, visitors and exhibitors enjoyed Greek breakfast selections every morning.
Presentations of local products from Greek regions also took place.
In addition, the GNTO held various cookery competitions with prize draws, in cooperation with TTG DIGITAL and OTT Travel Training.
The competitions were open exclusively to travel agents.
Expo HIGHLIGHT – WTM attendees welcomed by the South Aegean
The Region of the South Aegean launched its new tourism campaign for its islands on the opening day of the WTM.
As part of its efforts to attract more visitors from all over the world, the region teamed up with CNN for the production of a video which was displayed non stop at the entrance of Excel London inviting all to visit the Aegean islands. The promo video is currently being played in Asia, the Middle East, America and Europe.
Through its new motto #takemethere and stylish new logo, the region’s new tourism strategy takes a modern, fresh and targeted approach to position the Greek islands on the top of holidaymakers’ travel bucket lists.
Greek exhibitors @ WTM
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) was proud to be an official Media Partner to the international tourism exhibition WTM 2015. Through continuous event and news coverage by the GTP’s team of journalists, the news site GTP Headlines was constantly updated with news about Greece’s participation in the expo, Greek company updates and future tourism plans of the regions. At its stand, GTP’s specialized marketing team held numerous scheduled and drop-in meetings with hoteliers, tour operators and travel agents requesting information on the GTP Travel Business Network which offers increased publicity for clients aimed to the growth of their direct sales and reservations. Pictured is GTP’s publisher, Maria Theofanopoulou.
Sani Resort – At the WTM, the CEO of the Sani Resort in Halkidiki and president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, announced plans to move forward with a major investment program in the coming months. “We do not stop, we continue to improve and develop the product by adding new services. This is an ongoing investment and we see that it has a very positive impact on our clientele”, Mr Andreadis told the GTP. During WTM, SETE’s president announced data of a one-digit increase in early bookings from the United Kingdom to Greece for 2016. However, he underlined that although the data is positive, the sector must focus on shielding the competitiveness of the Greek tourism product and overcome a series of immediate challenges such as overtaxation and high unfair competition from illegal accommodation.
Aldemar Resorts – Alexandros Aggelopoulos, the vice president of Aldemar Resorts, informed the GTP on plans to launch a new “Greek” all inclusive package within the chain’s hotels. “Watching the market trends, and because local shopkeepers and owners of small shops that operate around our hotels express strong concern, we are stepping up an effort to bring businesses and shops on the hotel grounds so that the all inclusive model will cease to be a threat but an opportunity”, Mr. Aggelopoulos said. “It must be understood that we do not choose our customers. This holiday model has been chosen by some and we are obliged to follow”, he added. Mr. Aggelopoulos also informed that Aldemar’s “Greece on a Dish” initiative, which aims to highlight Greek cuisine both in Greece and abroad, will continue in 2016 with many surprises.
Domotel Hotels & Resorts – Konstantinos Alexopoulos, CEO of Domotel Hotels & Resorts, was happy to talk about the luxury hotel chain’s most recent addition — the Domotel Kastri. The fully revamped 5-star Domotel Kastri opened its doors in October in the northern Athens suburb of Nea Erythrea, near Kifissia. “The renovation of Domotel Kastri was carried out with total respect to the original architecture and style of the building, this way highlighting its historical significance”, he said to the GTP. Mr Alexopoulos also informed that bookings from Greek travellers were on the up at the chain’s ski resorts in Arachova and Kaimaktsalan. “We are currently doing business with the domestic market and are already almost fully booked for the Christmas and New Year season. This is quite early for the Greek market”, he added.
Aqua Vista Hotels – Global hotel unit management company Aqua Vista has expanded in the market of Cyprus and added the Azzurro Village to its network, George Grafakos, president of Aqua Vista Hotels, informed the GTP. The Azzurro village is located in St George, near Paphos, and is open all year around. “We have signed a three-year contract and will undertake the reservations and affiliation, the hotel management will remain as is”, he said and added that the Cypriot market has much potential. In regards to the 2016 season, Mr Grafakos believes that if stability remains in Greece, the country will see another record year in tourism. However, he underlined that Greece must invest in infrastructure and improve services in order to keep numbers on the up. “Right now Greece has benefited from circumstances in neighboring countries but nothing lasts forever”, he said.
Metaxas Group – UK travel agents and tour operators at the WTM were excited to hear the news of a new luxury suites and spa hotel scheduled to open on Santorini next year by the Metaxas Group. The Santo Maris Oia will be situated in the village of Oia, right next to the famous cliffs where all visitors can enjoy the world’s most spectacular and breathtaking sunset, overlooking the Aegean Sea. “We are very excited that we can talk about this product here at WTM… This will be a product with very high standard services and top of the art facilities”, the hotel’s general manager, Manos Borboudakis (right), told the GTP. He is pictured with Metaxas Group’s Nikos Sfakianakis, Senior Sales Manager at Maris Hotels.
Kipriotis Hotels – Stavros Matsouris, the commercial director of Kipriotis Hotels, told the GTP that despite the adverse conditions in Greece during the summer, the 2015 season had been “saved” and the hotel chain saw a small increase over 2014. However, the same cannot be said for the island of Kos, where the chain has most of its hotels. “Unfortunately we have a huge problem on Kos due to the refugee crisis… When comparing prebookings with the same period last year, Kos, as a destination, is over 30 percent under. The state must act immediately or else we will have losses”, he said. Mr Matsouris also informed the GTP that a refurbishment was taking place in the restaurant areas and rooms of the Kipriotis Village and that the chain’s two hotels Hippocrates and Panorama Aqualand are running under fresh concepts designed by Thomas Cook. These new concepts offer a fresh, new approach to holidays and a great value option for families, couples and single travelers.
Santikos Collection – The Santikos group is proceeding this year with the complete renovation of the Marpunta Village Club and tranforming it into a 4-star ultra all inclusive resort, which is expected to highlight the destination of Alonissos. “It’s full revamp
will be completed in 2017 and we are very excited”, Konstantinos Santikos, the COO of Santikos Collection, told the GTP. The Santikos Collection also includes two hotels on Skiathos and another at Pelion. In regards to bookings from the UK for 2016, Mr Santikos said that the season for the chain’s hotels has started off well as the situation in the Middle East has given a boost to bookings. “As long as stability remains in Greece and the English pound is high, bookings from the UK market will boom in Greece and especially in Skiathos which welcomes countless flights from England… I believe that the year will be a good one for tourism”, he added.
Grace Hotels – The UK market is Grace Hotels’ main market so it was no surprise that its stand was constantly packed with meetings during the WTM. When asked by the GTP if the group’s hotels on Mykonos and Santorini were affected in any way due to capital controls and political instability during the summer, Danai Passa (sales executive) said that no cancellations were made whatsoever by their high end clients. “Due to the specific destinations and to the fact that we constantly assured our customers that there was nothing to be concerned about, everything was fine this year… Profit-wise we are on the same level as last year and even better”, Ms Passa said. The Grace Hotels group is getting ready for its fourth development in Greece, which is expected to open in 2017 near the historic city of Kalamata. “Under the motto ‘simplicity & elegance’, the Grace Kalamata will have a completely different concept than our other hotels and will be ideal for family vacations”, she said.
Argo Travel Group – A first-timer at the WTM, the stand of Argo Travel was booming with meetings. “DMC Division stands in WTM so we are presenting all our products for Greece and combinations with neighboring countries, like Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria, Cyprus and some very interesting thematic tours like wine tours, olive tours, combinations with islands, island hopping and yachting services”, Stratis Voursoukis, Argo’s group director of sales and marketing, told the GTP. Argo Travel in general focuses on individual bookings (FIT) and not massive groups or charter operators. “We want to give another solution to the local market and of course the international market because WTM is not only for the local market as you know, but for the global industries here”, he said. Argo also informed GTP in regards to its expansion in China with the soon-to-open Chinese company Argo Travel Group UK Limited based in Hong Kong.
Beleon Tours – A full service tour operator of incoming tourism to Greece, Beleon Tours promoted its B2B online booking systems and platforms that are designed to assist tour operators in organizing transfers and events for customers. Beleon’s operations director, Dionysis Angelidis, informed GTP about the positive feedback in regards to Beleon’s latest platform which is designed to help the planning of the perfect wedding for couples. Beleon’s main market is Russia and the former Soviet countries. The company has offices in all major tourist regions in Greece such as Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Crete, Corfu, Halkidiki Peninsula and Santorini. Mr Angelidis is pictued here with Beleon’s president and CEO, Leonidas Dimitriadis.
Meli Tours – At WTM, Meli Tours held meetings with travel professionals from all over the world and promoted its products. In regards to the UK market specifically, Meli promoted its specialized theme vacation packages to British tour operators, which include alternative forms of tourism such as hiking tours. “Most of the British tour operators are looking for something new, something different to offer their clients and not so much mass tourism options. Alternative tourism is a popular form of tourism for British travellers”, Dimitrios Melikokis, owner and managing director of Meli Tours, told the GTP. He added that compared with 2014, the company has observed a small drop in profits for the 2015 season due to the developments in Greece during the summer. However, for the 2016 season he is optimistic. “There is an interest from foreign markets to Greece… I hope for a peaceful and profitable year”, he said.
Aegean Airlines – Just a few days before WTM, Aegean announced the introduction of 14 new destinations from Athens, 111 international routes to 45 countries and investments in four new Airbus A320 carriers. The Greek carrier aims to boost Athens as a hub by intensifying the number of direct connections to new markets, adding 14 international destinations (Dublin, Nice, Lille, Naples, Bari, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Palma de Mallorca, Ljubljana, Jeddah, Krakow, Vilnius, Split), and six new countries: Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Lithuania. The airline also plans to increase the number of destinations and frequencies in sector-significant markets such as France, Italy, Spain and Saudi Arabia. In total, the company will link the Greek capital with 101 destinations – 71 foreign, 30 domestic – opening up in the meantime 12.5 million jobs, an additional 1 million compared to 2015. Pictured is Aegean’s PR manager, Roula Saloutsi.
Celestyal Cruises – Greece’s only home porting cruise operator, Celestyal Cruises, aimed to attract more British holidaymakers on its cruises through its participation in this year’s WTM. “We are trying to ‘unlock’ the UK market this year as British travellers do come to Greece but they do not prefer cruises”, Frosso Zaroulea, the PR manager of Celestyal, told the GTP. A Celestyal Cruise journey is a journey deep into Greek hospitality as it contains thematic events that focus on the country’s hospitality, cuisine, wine, etc. In order to attract more UK travellers, Celestyal is offering ‘cruise and stay’ packages on its cruises in 2016. Celestyal’s Frosso Zaroulea, PR manager (right) is pictured with Marios Shekeris, Country Manager, Sales; and Sophia Mimidis, Sales Executive.
Greek regions & destinations @ WTM
Athens – The Greek capital was once again represented to the UK market by the Athens Development & Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) and Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) through a joint stand with the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association. In total, over 70 meetings took place at the Athens stand with leading UK and international tourism organizations, travel agencies and tourism professionals. According to ACVB, the interest of most professionals was focused on the Greek capital as a destination for city breaks, conferences and events, culture tourism and gastronomy tourism. UK travel agents also showed an increased interest to learn more about the coastal front of Athens and the islands of the Argosaronic Gulf. Pictured are Orhideea Rosu, ACVB’s travel trade sales & marketing Manager; ADDMA’s public relations director, Kalliopi Andriopoulou and ACVB’s press and media manager, George Aggelis. They are accompanied by Pan Hotel’s sales manager, Ioanna Panagiotopoulou and manager, Ismini Panagiotopoulou.
Thessaloniki – The Thessaloniki Hotels Association was represented at this year’s WTM by its president, Aristotelis Thomopoulos (third from left); vice president, Konstantinos Tornivoukas and Evdokia Tsatsouri, marketing manager. At WTM, the association promoted Greece’s second largest city’s special characteristics that make it an ideal city break and thematic tourism destination. The association held meetings with representatives from Europe, Asia, the United States and Australia. Travel professionals were keen on adding Thessaloniki in their international travel packages. “Thessaloniki is part of a new trend that is gaining ground within the global travel audience in which travellers select destinations depending on the new experiences of alternative tourism they offer”, said Mr Thomopoulos who is seen in the photo with Grigoris Tassios (Halkidiki Tourism Organization), Alexandros Vassilikos (Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association), Andreas Andreadis (Greek Tourism Confederation-SETE) and Yiannis Retsos (Hellenic Hotel Federation).
Halkidiki – The Halkidiki Tourism Organization presented and distributed its updated “Halkidiki” guide, an ideal “tool” for tourism professionals and journalists. “At WTM we aim to show Halkidiki’s ‘other face’ — the destination’s alternative side that includes environmental tours designed for 2016”, the organization’s president Grigoris Tassios told the GTP. Next year will be dedicated to the 2,400 years of the birth of Aristotle and the Halkidiki Tourism Organization plans to launch various parallel events including excursions to ancient Stagiron and Amphipolis in order to introduce a new form of tourism for its visitors: archaeological tourism. “Overall I think we can make a difference in the coming years only if Halkidiki is united with Thessaloniki and perhaps Pieria under a new branding through which everyone will have something to sell, whether its ‘sun & sea’ — the basic product — or historical, cultural and gastronomic elements”, he added.
Crete – Promoting alternative and adventure tourism and at the same time bringing the celebrated Cretan hospitality to the frontline of its tourism strategy for 2016, the Region of Crete is moving full speed ahead to prepare for the new season, its Commissioner of Tourism, Michalis Vamiedakis, told the GTP. “We’re ready to launch our new site that will aim to keep travelers updated on what’s going on where on Crete all year round”, he said. Through its participation in the WTM this year, the Region of Crete is aiming to build even stronger ties with existing partners and at the same time find new friends. “We are firm believers in the positive results of events like the WTM, but we also believe that what plays a more vital role is what happens before and after these events… through talk with sector professionals we learn how to improve our performance.”
Rhodes – Speaking to the GTP during the WTM, the Vice President of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX) and President of the Rhodes Hotel Association, and Vice President of POX – Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Andonis Cambourakis, explained that it is primarily the human factor that sets Greece and Rhodes apart as a destination. “Greek accommodation has achieved high levels of quality and what sets it apart from other destinations is its exuberant Greek hoteliers. Greek tourism is based on the Greek hotelier and the high quality of services offered together with an unbeatable feeling of hospitality,” he explained. Despite the positive figures for 2015, Mr Cambourakis did not mince his words: “Greek tourism has indeed achieved impressive figures but this is not enough, we cannot and should not rest on our laurels… Our goal should be to return to ‘normalcy’ after the refugee crisis and the financial turmoil that gave Greece and Greek hospitality an image it did not deserve”. Pictured is Mr Cambourakis accompanied by a ‘Roditissa’ in traditional island costume.
Skiathos – “Skiathos is a home away from home, it’s safe and friendly and we know our visitors by their first names,” Panos Diolettas, president of the Skiathos Tourism Development Committee, told the GTP on the sidelines of the WTM. According to Mr Diolettas, the municipality’s tourism strategy is three-pronged: it includes participation in 12 tourism fairs in Greece and abroad, among them two for alternative tourism, a far-reaching communication plan to include media and social media, and of course, making sure visitors leave Skiathos with a full heart. “Why? Because a happy traveler will say so… and then bring in 10 new visitors”, he said. In regards to the municipality’s participation in the WTM, Mr Diolettas said that the municipality came to honor its main market and support it back. “And from here offer a channel for local businesses to meet and forge synergies,” he said, hoping that next year the Skiathos WTM participation will include food tastings, parallel events and promotional happenings. Mr Diolettas (center) is pictured at the Skiathos stand which was visited by Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura.
Ionian Islands – “We strongly believe in and invest in the ‘people factor’. Besides our ongoing communication strategy, the WTM provides a wonderful opportunity to reach out and spread the word face to face”, said Spyros Galiatsatos, Vice Governor of Tourism and Promotion for the Ionian Islands Region. According to Mr Galiatsatos, the region has planned promotional actions with CNN and the Travel Channel as well as through social media and an interactive online presence. “Through the ‘people factor’ – for example, during the summer we organized a series of fam trips and media tours which not only brought journalists, travel writers and bloggers closer to our product but also helped reverse the negative portrayal of Greece in the media”, he told the GTP. On the practical side, the dozens of interviews with media and tour operators, the newly planned fam trips, the food and wine tasting events, all seem to have paid off: Mr Galiatsatos says pre-bookings are already estimated as exceeding those of 2015.
Poros – “Poros is not too cheap nor too expensive, we have many small- and medium-sized units offering warm hospitality, its not too far from Athens but either is it too distant, it’s accessible by car but we have no airport nearby so the travelers who visit Poros come here seeking a serene holiday that combines nearby excursions with fine food and a wide array of cultural offerings, including the now established Poros Art Festival held in summer”, the destination manager for Poros, Dimitris Prokopiou, told the GTP. Aiming to get the word about Poros out, the island’s municipal authority has set aside a budget for 2016 that will include a research project to be ready by Christmas, a promotional scheme via media and internet as well as participation in a number of world travel fairs.