Besides the highly sought-after sea & sun holidays that Greece is widely known for, one of the areas it still hasn’t tapped into is conference tourism. Greece accounts for a mere 2.5 percent of the MICE market.
According to Bank of Greece data released this week, Greece held 131 conferences over the 2000-2017 period compared to Germany in the first spot hosting 530 and accounting for 10.3 percent of the market, followed by the UK in second place with 8.8 percent, France (8.5 percent), Italy (8.1 percent) and Spain (8.0 percent).
Central Bank Governor Yiannis Stournaras, who prepared the report, adds that special interest tourism products such as meetings or conference tourism can contribute to sustaining the tourism sector’s dynamic.
The report goes on to note that besides its added value, conference tourism contributes to the extension of the tourist season and brings scientific knowledge and innovation to local communities.
Data cited in the BoG report found that the average conference visitor spent five times more (daily) than the leisure traveler in 2017, while the average cost per trip for the conference visitor was more than double the budget of the leisure traveler.
Indicatively, in 2017, Greece hosted 50,082 delegates who spent 73.5 million euros and stayed 3.7 days on average.
Why hasn’t Greece tapped into such a promising market? The economic crisis combined with strong competition from other Mediterranean countries has hampered its potential.
The report goes on to note that after exiting its bailout last August, Greece can now work to “penetrate the lucrative and highly competitive global congress market, requiring however the establishment in cooperation with local authorities and private sector stakeholders of a coherent national plan to attract international conferences”.
Key to achieving this is improving public infrastructure (motorways, marinas, water supply networks), further developing air transport, upgrading and enriching existing conference venues, and creating a modern specialized conference center than can host large events.
The first step in this direction involves attracting private investment, fostering public-private partnerships, and creating a friendlier business environment, the report concludes.