‘Santorini Experience will be One of the Best Thematic Tourism Events in the World’ – Interview with Active Media’s CEO Akis Tsolis
“Santorini Experience”, the sports tourism event that offers breathtaking views and challenging routes, is back for a second year and ready to offer participants and spectators one of the most exciting weekends of running and swimming on Santorini, one of Greece’s most popular islands.
During October 7-9, swimmers will dive into the “eruptive” atmosphere of the volcano and runners will feel the adrenaline rush of the Caldera, thus gaining one of the most rewarding experiences an event can offer. Once again everyone will see that Santorini is a destination that is available to host the world throughout the year.
In its second year the event has gained an impressive following and organizers are proud to welcome more participants, fans and supporters.
With only two more weeks to go, the sports tourism event is already counting a record in participations from Greece and abroad. Top Greek athletes such as Silver Olympic medalist and World Champion in open water swimming, Spyros Gianniotis, will live out the “Santorini Experience”. The event’s hospitality sponsors have also recorded a record number of bookings for stay on the island during the event and also throughout the second weekend of October.
Moreover, this year Santorini Experience is being held for the first time with the support of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) and under the auspices of the Hellenic Swimming Federation.
“Santorini Experience” is a collaboration between the Municipality of Santorini, the Municipal Sports Cultural Environmental Organization of Santorini (D.A.P.P.O.S.) and Active Media Group.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) caught up with Active Media’s CEO, Akis Tsolis who underlined the importance of the event for the promotion of Sports Tourism in Greece.
“…It is time for us to take Sports Tourism to another level… As time passes we will convince every person not only on the island but in the world that this is a unique Sports Tourism Event”, Mr Tsolis tells us.
Akis Tsolis on the “Santorini Experience” and Sports Tourism in Greece
- GTP: This is the second year that the Santorini Experience event will take place. What is your impression from the previous organization? What feedback have you received?
Akis Tsolis: We just wanted to take the first step last year. To see what the event needed, what the island wanted and lots of other elements that we would not know if we did not start. That is why we went forward with a huge investment as a company together with the Municipality that in times of crisis others will not even dare to think of carrying out.
The event involved twenty people TV Crew, photographers, lifeguards; in total more than 150 people worked for this event.
- GTP: How was the “Santorini Experience” concept “born”?
Akis Tsolis: We just wanted with Panos Alefragis and Nikos Gemelos to erupt our feelings! Panos discovered the power of sports tourism on his own island. Nikos, the well-known federal swimming coach, imagined a big pool between the volcano and the island with people in Caldera watching the show while drinking their coffee or their beer.
- GTP: Events have become an increasingly significant component of destination branding. Do you believe that the “Santorini Experience” can strengthen the island’s brand?
Akis Tsolis: I do not believe it only. I know it is true. We will have visitors from all the continents of the world. People who understand that Santorini is not only a romantic island for the summer but a 12-month destination.
- GTP: You are a known supporter of promoting Greece as a destination for sports event tourism. What has to be done for Greece to become an attraction for sports tourism at a global level?
Akis Tsolis: Greece invented sports tourism with the Olympic Games. That was the first sports tourism event where people from all over Greece were travelling to take part.
Now it is time for us to take Sports Tourism to another level. We need to see the strategy in this unique type of tourism. We need strategy for tourism, strategy for sports and a different strategy for Sports Tourism.
This year Santorini Experience with the support of a giant TV Network, FOX SPORTS will broadcast the event to more than 40 million people in the whole world. Our tourism campaigns can reach even 30 million in total in a year, but to have the opportunity with a two-day event to present Santorini, Sports and Greece to countries such as India, China, Japan, South Africa, Italy, Netherlands and more is something that has not happened in Greece since the Olympics of 2004.
- GTP: In your opinion, why hasn’t sports tourism flourished in Greece, given the infrastructure and all the hype created by the 2004 Olympic Games?
Akis Tsolis: The Olympic Games are a type of Sports Tourism but not the only one. Since we could not benefit from the use of the stadiums when the 2004 Olympic Games ended, we had to move forward and create new opportunities for sports tourism.
- GTP: The Tourism Ministry often refers to promoting thematic tourism forms to attract more international visitors to Greece. Sports tourism has been mentioned on many occasions. How do you see the ministry’s efforts?
Akis Tsolis: Like I mentioned before we need Tourism authorities and Sport authorities to cooperate in order to guide better individuals. Plus experts need to take the lead. A person who is involved with running or swimming does not mean he can do communications or PR or even to offer Tourism Destination services. We hire the best people for every job. We have the world’s best swimming coach Mr. Gemelos as our Swimming director and the best Coach in running and still holder of the national best performance on the classical Marathon route Mr. Nikos Polias as our running director. At the same time, with cooperation with the Department of Sports Organization & Management from University of Peloponnese, in Sparta, we have the best students as volunteers, helping them to adjust better to the needs of their future jobs. This year, Santorini Experience will be held for the first time with the kind support of the Greek National Tourism Organization and under the auspices of the Hellenic Swimming Federation.
Santorini Experience will be one of the best thematic tourism events in the world and I think this is what the Ministry of Tourism recognized immediately and decided to support it.
- GTP: Does the “Santorini Experience” event need more support from the state, the island’s municipality and tourism professionals in order for it to become a mega-event – a “tourist attraction” – on Santorini and thus extend the tourist season?
Akis Tsolis: Last year few people cooperated with us. This year more. As time passes we will convince every person not only on the island but in the world that this is a unique Sports Tourism Event and they have to participate. We even convinced Ryanair to support the event from Ireland where their offices are located and now they have more than 80% in their occupancy percentage the whole week of the event, while an increase has also been recorded in the occupancy of Blue Star Ferries.
- GTP: What should we expect at this year’s “Santorini Experience”? What would you say is the biggest “challenge” of the event?
Akis Tsolis: You can run and swim in any place on the world. But you cannot swim from a volcano or run on a caldera. These are unique and you can find them only in Santorini.
- GTP: Will we see professional athletes participate in this year’s event?
Akis Tsolis: The biggest name in open water swimming world will be there: Spyros Gianniotis. The best open water swimmers in Greece will also be there. Some of the best in the world will join us. Do not forget that this is the only Sports Tourism event under the auspices of the Hellenic Swimming Federation. The president Mr. Diathesopoulos was with us from the first Santorini Experience and shared our vision to the World Swimming Community.
- GTP: FOX Sports of FOX Networks Group is the Official Broadcaster of the “Santorini Experience” sports documentary. This will give the event international exposure. Can you tell us more about this partnership?
Akis Tsolis: When a Sports Tourism event becomes so innovative from its second year, it is something that makes me proud of our team. The only sports tourism event in Greece after the Olympic Games with such international exposure will be Santorini Experience.
The World’s Largest Sports Broadcaster will be our official broadcaster and will give us the opportunity to show a 35 mins video documentary; not 5 mins of highlights to more than 40.000.000 households in the world!
- GTP: What are Active Media’s future plans in regards to sports events in Greece?
Akis Tsolis: We got lots of proposals every year for different places or races. We have worked three years with Zagori Mountaing Running or with The North Face Climbing Festival but we want to choose carefully. We aim to high profiled innovative events like the one we will have on February with the 1st Messinia Pro Am Golf Tournament.
Further information on the “Santorini Experience” can be found here.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is a Strategic Communication Partner of the “Santorini Experience” event.