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#someTHINKdifferent: SETE’s Revamped Tourism Conference Gets Big Round of Applause

The annual conference of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) this year sported a new look and concept which included a series of interesting keynote speeches and fireside chats focusing on destination management and digital skills.

Held at the Hilton Athens Hotel, the conference was attended by over 300 tourism professionals

A number of distinguished speakers hosted at SETE’s 2018 conference, strategically titled “Tourism in Transition: #someTHINKdifferent”, highlighted the need to make full use of new technologies for the upgrading of the Greek tourism product and to form strategies for the promotion of destinations. And that was just in the first stage, as the conference also included a second stage that featured interactive masterclasses.

“Because some do think different!”, SETE President Yiannis Retsos said when opening the conference.

According to Retsos, the conference, now in its 17th year, was in need for a change in order to follow the international trends. A big part of the conference’s revamp was the more modernized way of how SETE presented important issues for the tourism sector, taking into account the international nature of the industry which is in transition.

Following is a photo report of the event’s main highlights.

Yiannis Retsos: Greek tourism is in a crucial transition process

SETE President Yiannis Retsos.

Underlining the significance of the title of this year’s conference, Retsos stressed that Greek tourism is in a crucial transition process. “We are at a crossroad of great developments that force us to think differently… the development of a tourism strategy must now begin and end with our adaptation to the new era,” he underlined.
While in discussion with the conference’s host Paul Papadimitriou, SETE’s president highlighted the need for continuing training of human resources in the sector, noting that tourism nowadays does not offer only seasonal work.
He also focused on adjustments that should be made by the business community in order for tourism to maintain its competitiveness, as well as the initiatives that the country should take to highlight the comparative advantages of the Greek tourist product.
“We must dare to touch on the difficult issues even if we disagree with them,” Retsos concluded.

Elena Kountoura: Digital transformation is a government priority

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura.

Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura noted that digital transformation is a government priority, underlining that a further increase in arrivals can be achieved through innovative products. “With the aim of establishing tourism in Greece all 365 days a year, we are using all available digital tools to promote our tourism product,” Minister Kountoura said and presented the ministry’s already implemented actions, as well as future plans in the digital field.

Paul Papadimitriou: Find your magic to attract today’s traveler

Paul Papadimitriou, marketing innovation expert and futurist.

“Technology is everywhere… Everybody is self-reliant. Travelers do not plan ahead of time anymore, but they visit a destination and decide what to do once they are there (with the help of their mobile phones)”, marketing innovation expert and futurist, Paul Papadimitriou, said. Referring to today’s travelers, Papadimitriou said that they are looking for new experiences and in order to attract them, cities and tourism entrepreneurs must find their magic. “First you have to find your magic, think about what differentiates you from others… And then you create your magic.”

Martin Boisen: “Places don’t need brands, they are brands, so let’s just manage them as such!”

Martin Boisen, co-founder and vice-president of The International Place Branding Association, referred to problems that cause the phenomena of overtourism to destinations. He pointed to the need for residents and businesses to have a common vision for the development of their destination in order to avoid its commercialization.

Signe Jungersted: The way we think, work and talk of tourism is changing – and it needs to change!

Signe Jungersted, Director of Development at Wonderful Copenhagen, the official destination management and promotion organization in the metropolitan area of ​​the Danish capital, presented the strategy Copenhagen follows to address the needs arising from the increase in tourist traffic. She underlined that a particular importance in the decision-making process is given to the opinion of the residents.

Geerte Udo: Keep places livable, lovable and prosperous

Geerte Udo, Associate Director Marketing Strategy at Amsterdam Partners, who heads the internationally recognized “I Amsterdam” campaign, described the steps the organization has taken over the past 15 years to promote and manage the destination of Amsterdam. According to Udo, five years ago, when the city had reached a high number of tourist arrivals, the effort shifted to proper management of the destination.

David Bizer: We need to hire more on attitude rather than skills

David Bizer, founder and chief executive of Talent Fountain, a talent-focused consulting company, set out examples of human resources management. Bizer underlined that the three most important tenets of building a successful culture are decision making, behavior and communication. “How we make decisions greatly influences the agility of our business, how we behave impacts both customer experience and employee experience and how we communicate can significantly improve relations with employees and management,” Bizer said. “If you get the (company) culture, everything else will follow,” he added.

Panel discussion: Startup tech in tourism

A panel of experts, moderated by Dimitris Kalavros – Gousiou, Co-Founder & Partner – Velocity.Partners Venture Capital and included Lela Dritsa, Co-Founder & President – Nannuka; Alexandros Trimis, CEO – Welcome; Babis Kourtzis, CEO – Exclusivi; and Agamemnon Papazoglou, Co-Founder – MyJobNow, analyzed the development of startups and the introduction of new entrepreneurial ideas in the tourism sector. As it was concluded: the technology that is being developed in Greece these days, can provide real solutions and new opportunities in the field of tourism. “This is the essential digital transformation,” Kalavros underlined.

Oana Damian: Airports must showcase local brands

Oana Damian, principal of Damazo group, underlined that airports, as first point of contact and last impression of a destination, must create a sense of place by showcasing local brands, which appeal to the exploratory nature of today’s travelers.

Panel discussion: Little things that make the difference

The panel discussion “Little Things That Make The Difference”, co-ordinated by Peter Jordan, Head of Insights of TOPOSOPHY, included speeches from Kash Bhattacharya, founder of Budget Traveler and Valerie Pretscher, Zoku’s Growth Director. The speakers referred to practical and economic ways that hotels can differentiate their products and services for visitors.

Peter Jordan: “Taking care of the Little Things means having a bit more sympathy for our guests: removing their pain points and finding little ways to surprise and delight them.”

Valerie Pretscher: “While online connectivity is strong, people lack in genuine offline interactions. This change in lifestyle demands new ways of accommodation. By providing a space to work, live & play Zoku is a solution for global nomads connecting travellers.”

Kash Bhattacharya Budget Traveller: “Travelers don’t want the cookie-cutter experience. They want unique, interesting, thoughtful little things that make the big difference.”

Ian McDonald: In our days we don’t talk about personas, we talk about behaviors

Ian McDonald, EMEA Content Director – Quartz, underlined that when creating marketing communications, it’s important to ensure a customer-focused story. “Whether this is across social media or on your site, creating content that speaks to consumer need, is key,” he said.

George Achillias: Delivering relevance is what really matters

George Achillias, Co-Author of “Revealing the Invisible” & Chief Strategy Officer – Alite, referred to how affordable, accessible and easy technology is in today’s era. “We live in times where technology was never more accessible or easy to get… We live in times that it becomes more critical than ever to think two steps ahead instead of just what to do now,” he said, adding that courage, plan, and strategy to deliver is required. “A strategy to address challenges but also form new ways on making revenues and attracting alternative pools of visitors,” he said.

SETE’s “Tourism in Transition: #someTHINKdifferent” conference was organized in collaboration with TOPOSOPHY, a specialized consulting company in the field of visitor economy & destination marketing and “weareJARVIS”, the content studio of the innovation and digital transformation organization “Found.ation”.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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