The ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater, one of the must see attractions in Athens and one of the best open air theaters in the world, on Sunday hosted the opening ceremony of the ASTA Destination Expo 2018, the international conference of the American Society of Travel Agents.
An international event taking place annually in a different location every year, the ASTA Destination Expo kicked off in the Greek capital on Saturday, April 14, with the participation of some 350 American travel agencies looking to seal partnerships with Greek tourism suppliers and sell destination Greece to American travelers.
The event is organized by the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist & Travel Agencies (FedHATTA), supported by the Greek Tourism Ministry and the Greek National Tourism Organization and sponsored by Emirates.
US Ambassador: Greece and the US have strong friendship
Welcoming the delegates of the ASTA conference, United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt underlined that Greece’s image as a tourism destination has been consistently improving since the beginning of the economic crisis, some eight years ago.
“I am proud to say that the friendship between Greece and the United States has never been stronger. We have reached a very special moment in our bilateral relationship and on both sides our governments are committed to build on this momentum and all of you visiting today are certainly contributing to that,” Pyatt said.
During his speech, the US Ambassador invited the delegates of the ASTA conference to collaborate with Greece’s local municipalities, experts and tourism hospitality companies that can help them brand and package Greek tourism experiences.
Kountoura: 1 million Americans now visit Greece
On her part, Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, underlined that the hosting of global travel industry events in Greece, such as the ASTA Destination Expo, is part of the country’s tourism strategy.
“It is the most effective way for all market leaders, opinion-makers and trend-setters, to promote all the exciting experiences Greece offers, having seen them with their own eyes, through their own personal experience. And they become the best ambassadors our country can have,” she said while addressing the US travel agents.
During her speech, Minister Κountoura referred to the importance of the US market to Greece. “Through our targeted actions we have experienced double digit growth in the last three years. About one million Americans now visit Greece, and demand is growing from year to year,” she said and presented the comparative advantages of Greece as an ideal 365 days a year tourism destination.
ASTA expects rise in US tourists to Greece
ASTA CEO Zane Kerby underlined that he is confident that the number of American tourists to Greece will increase following the ASTA Destination Expo 2018.
“The reason for this event is to bring the people of our two countries closer together,” Kerby said.
“ASTA agents have come from all over the United States and some from outside the US to see, meet and establish relationships with local business people, so they can go home and recommend Greece and its travel suppliers with confidence to the traveling public in the US,” he added.
Taking place until Tuesday, April 17, the ASTA expo will give US travel agents the chance to experience Athens and other Greek destinations through exclusive familiarization (FAM) and sightseeing tours. The event will also include B2B meetings between the American travel agents and 60 leading travel suppliers from Greece.
According to ASTA Chairman Jay Ellenby, 38 percent of American travelers want to see natural sites and another 34 percent seek historic sites in their travels.
“This is an experience to live by here. You can’t get this anyplace else,” he told delegates when referring to the conference’s host destination, Athens.
“The relationships that you will develop here will empower you to sell Greece for many years to come… Our mission is to help you build industry relationships that last a lifetime, so take your experience here in Greece and use it to advance your business,” Ellenby said.
He also added that 98 percent of attendees of the ASTA Destination Expo will use the Greek supplier contacts they gain for their bookings and 77 percent of the delegates are expected to send their clients to Greece based on their experience during the conference in Athens.
The opening ceremony of the ASTA Destination Expo 2018 featured a performance by Greek soprano Anastasia Zanni, accompanied by the Hellenic Navy Band.