By Nikos Krinis
Greece received messages of confidence from the British travel market during the 37th World Travel Market (WTM), held November 7-9 on the fairgrounds of ExCeL in London. WTM London, which this year was revamped as a three-day event, is the occasion where the travel and tourism industry conducts its business deals.
“We are already seeing a very large number of early bookings from the UK market and this is very important because it shows the confidence that British travellers have in Greece”, Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP)) on the last day of the trade show.
“This gives us the ability negotiate, cooperate and promote Greece for 2017 more strongly in the UK market”, she added.
By the end of the year, international arrivals to Greece are expected to exceed 27 million — including cruise arrivals — which is a new high record for the country, Minister Kountoura had told a packed press conference on the opening day of WTM London, adding that “2016 has been another great year for Greek tourism”.
According to the minister, international arrivals to Greece grew by seven percent in the first nine months of the year with the months of July to October proving to be “the best ever” for the sector.
Minister Kountoura also referred to a “very positive development” pointing to early indications of bookings for 2017 — up until September 2016 — that reveal a year-on-year increase of 23 percent.
Greece press conference @ WTM London 2016
Moreover, it was also made known that Greece should expect a number of new flight routes from the UK next summer.
“Due to growing demand for travelling to Greece, several airlines and tour operators have already announced adding new flights to our destination”, Minister Kountoura stated.
Throughout the days of the trade show, the tourism minister did not stop promoting Greece as a year-round destination, ideal to offer tourism all 365 days a year.
“Greece has an excellent climate for at least nine months a year. We have a mild winter, which may not be suitable for summer holidays, but is suitable for many other types of tourism such as biking, climbing, hiking tourism, extreme sports, skiing, wellness… There are groups of people — such as seniors — who travel all the time… Being an all-year round destination can also strengthen conference tourism, which is very important because it can combine both business and pleasure”, Minister Kountoura told GTP.
During the three-day trade show, Minister Kountoura met with representatives of the UK and international tourism industry, tour operators and airlines and discussed possible new partnerships in 2017. The minister held meetings with representatives of TUI, Thomas Cook and Olympic Holidays, who all confirmed the positive messages from the British market for next year.
Brexit has been described as the most significant change in the UK for more than 70 years, and the UK travel sector has been identified as one of the main industries to be affected.
A high-profile panel session at WTM London 2016 — “Brexit – How Will It Change UK Travel – Inbound and Outbound?” — said that countries around the world will in fact see a decline in visitors from the UK. However, panellists also highlighted that the travel industry generally has been resilient to many knocks over the years, including terror attacks and volcanic ash clouds, and Brexit was just the latest challenge.
Euromonitor’s Head of Travel, Caroline Bremner, said that the best-case scenario would be for the UK to keep access to single market and open skies.
Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Andreas Andreadis said that it is a good sign that Greece was already receiving positive figures of pre-bookings by the UK market, which is expected to shrink due to the Brexit.
Mr Andreadis added that it was too early to make a final assessment of the consumer behavior of British tourists for 2017 due to a number of factors, such as the development of the sterling exchange rate, the dollar rate against the euro and unforeseen developments in the British and world economy.
On his part, the First Vice President of SETE and President of the Hellenic Hotel Federation, Yiannis Retsos, told GTP that he believes the UK will find a way to manage the Brexit situation efficiently.
“In the long run Brexit will not have a particular impact on Greek tourism”, Mr Retsos said, adding that the greatest danger of a Brexit impact on Greek tourism was expected this year. Retsos believes the situation will eventually find a balance.
“We have to wait a while to see the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU. I hope that the final agreement of the exit is not prohibitive, especially for travel, and will not create more problems for British holidaymakers when they travel abroad”, he said.
Events @ the Greek stand
As every year, the Visit Greece (Greek National Tourism Organization-GNTO) stand at EU 1200 hosted a number of exhibitors including representatives of hotels, regions and travel companies from across the country and its islands who will network, negotiate and conduct deals. This year the GNTO hosted 68 Greek coexhibitors.
During the three days of the WTM London, the Visit Greece stand hosted a series of events for foreign journalists and travel professionals. One of the highlight events was the event with historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes who gave a presentation of Chios and discussed her love for the island. The event was followed by a reception with Chios local liqueurs and sweets.
Between Monday and Wednesday the Greece stand was open to media and tourism professionals for a Greek breakfast and a Greek lunch. Each day included a tribute to the local gastronomy of a different region of Greece.
Day one featured delicacies from the island of Crete, day two from the islands of the North Aegean and day three from Northern Greece, Halkidiki and Thasos.
Also, every evening of the exhibition, the Greek stand held a happy hour and provided evening drinks including Greek wines, beers and liqueurs to journalists, visiting travel professionals and exhibitors.
Greek exhibitors @ WTM London 2016
Greek regions / destinations @ WTM London 2016
Moments @ WTM London 2016
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) was an official media partner of WTM London 2016.
For GTP’s WTM London 2016 Special feature, press here.