Argo Travel Group, a leading Greek tourism company, in 2019 will launch three projects focused on the promotion of important thematic tourism products in Greece to markets abroad.
The projects will be centered around religious tourism, wedding tourism and medical tourism.
Speaking to GTP Headlines on the sidelines of the recent World Travel Market (WTM) 2018 trade show in London, the company’s Group Director of Sales & Marketing, Stratis Voursoukis, underlined that thematic tourism has evolved into a growing trend for modern travelers.
“We see a growing interest for thematic tourism products, a segment which Argo Travel has been investing in over the past two years… People are seeking experiences focused on various forms such as religious tourism, wedding tourism, gastronomy tourism, wine tourism… All the products that Greece has but needs to develop,” Voursoukis said, adding that 2019 will find Argo Travel focusing more in the thematic tourism segment.
“Our first project is aimed at boosting Greece’s religious and cultural tourism offerings through a partnership with the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens,” Voursoukis explained.
Argo Travel’s religious tourism program will include short courses for travelers in collaboration with the university, one of the oldest (since 1837) and highly ranked educational institutions in Greece.
The courses will last 7 to 15 days, address the academic community, especially university students, and offer first-hand knowledge of places of historical, archaeological and cultural interest in Greece.
“The themes of the courses derive from ancient Greek history and religion, christianity and Greek civilization. Their purpose is for students/visitors to come into contact with narratives known from Greek mythology and ancient history and to present the sites where monumental moments of world history have taken place,” Voursoukis said.
Sites to be explored include ancient temples, sanctuaries, public buildings and unique Christian churches in destinations including Athens, Mycenae, Corinth, Olympia, Delphi, Thermopylae, Knossos, Phaistos and Meteora. The outdoor lessons/tours will be carried out by experienced and acclaimed professors of the university.
The agreement between Argo Travel and the university has been published on the Diavgeia transparency portal. The program is set to launch in February 2019 with the first lesson is a pilgrimage tour in which participants will follow the footsteps of Apostle Paul and trace his path through Greece.
Argo Travel’s second project is targeted to promote Greece’s wedding tourism destinations and offerings based on a strategic partnership launched with Olga Karaververis of Karaververis Weddings, a renowned wedding planner in Greece. The collaboration between the two companies will aim to attract a variety of audiences for having weddings and/or honeymoons in Greece.
“And not only on Santorini,” Voursoukis was quick to add. “Santorini may be the most well-known wedding destination in Greece but our goal is to offer new destinations for this segment, including destinations like Crete and Rhodes. Skiathos and Skopelos are also very popular destinations for weddings, especially for the Asian markets, due to the Mamma Mia film.”
Argo Travel and Karaververis Weddings partnership will offer travelers a total of 18 Greek destinations for wedding and honeymoon tourism. The destinations will include Epirus, Thessaloniki, Monemvasia, Mytilini (Lesvos) and the Ionian islands.
Local authorities (regions and municipalities) are also expected to contribute to the wedding and honeymoon tourism project, which will include new products, each based on a different concept, depending on the market it is addressed to. “I believe that this thematic product will bring something very special and strong to Greece,” Voursoukis said.
Argo Travel’s third project looks to contribute in establishing Greece as a medical tourism destination. Based on strategic cooperations the company has secured with acclaimed doctors in Greece’s healthcare system, the project was introduced last year.
“What we have done is create a new entity that will have the role of a medical facilitator… In cooperation with Greece’s leading hospitals, we will launch a company, powered by Argo Travel and our partner hospitals, to offer medical tourism services in Greece,” Voursoukis said.
According to Voursoukis, a coordinated effort to promote Greece’s medical tourism services is something that is missing from the country’s market.
“In the last few years Greece’s medical tourism segment has been promoted very much, but in reality it lacks coordination… This is where we want to come in. We want to contribute to a more coordinated action with the big players from Greece’s hospitals and medical centers and make it known that Greece offers excellent IVF (In vitro fertilisation), orthopedic, aesthetic and plastic surgery services and basically is an ideal destination for markets from abroad, mainly outside Europe,” Voursoukis underlined.
One of the markets, Argo Travel aims to target and attract medical tourists from is the United States.
“The American market is the main market for IVF procedures… Just think that the cost for IVF in a middle-level American medical center is around $10,000, while in Greece it is priced at around $3,000 in a top notch IVF center,” he said.
Argo Travel’s goal is to place Greece among the world’s popular medical tourism destinations such as the UK, Germany, Turkey and India.
“We want to make it known that we have the service standards of Europe, high infrastructure in private hospitals and prices similar to India and Turkey,” he said.
Voursoukis added that he expects the Tourism Ministry to embrace the initiative.
“Argo travel is a member of Greece’s medical tourism council Elitour, which the ministry already supports, so when we are ready, we will make our approach,” he said.
Established in Athens in 1952, Argo Travel Group is active in several fields of the travel industry. The group is specialized as a DMC (Destination Management Company), supporting travel services in the whole of Greece with a large range of both B2C and B2B products. Argo Travel has privately-owned offices in Athens, and branches in Thessaloniki and Santorini. Its network extends to Geneva (Switzerland), London (UK) and Shanghai (China), with fully affiliated companies.