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SETE Looks Ahead and Aims to Redefine Greek Tourism

A number of best practices and business models – that promote sustainability, innovation, technology, know-how, experience and talent – were introduced during the annual conference of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) held on Thursday in Athens.

Titled “Redefining Realities: #someREACTdifferent”, SETE’s conference this year hosted an impressive lineup of leading tourism experts that were focused on passing insight on best practices for destination management and strategic tourism development.

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

Yiannis Retsos: Νow is the time of great changes for Greek tourism

Citing the ever-changing conditions in the global travel market and the urgent need for Greek tourism to adapt to new developments, SETE President Yiannis Retsos stressed to a packed audience of Greek tourism professionals that “now is the time of great changes for Greek tourism”.
Retsos underlined that Greece as a global tourism destination now needs to mature through sustainable development, innovation, technology and culture.
“While on this journey, it will be useful to learn from already successful models and – where we see appropriate – to adopt international best practices,” he said.

Paul Papadimitriou: Tourism is entering a new era

“A new era of travel is upon us. A shift in behavior and, more importantly, in values of the customer has been sparking here and there for a few years, now accelerating, with the tipping point closer than ever,” marketing innovation expert and futurist, Paul Papadimitriou, said. “To stand out, Greece needs to stand tall, to rethink its culture of tourism -mixing ancient heritage with the sprouts of its future, surfacing what has been there all along, and what is yet only a promise- it needs to grow higher.”

Session 1: Brave New World

Patrik Gustavsson: Being sustainable can be a fun experience

“There is a lot of pressure today for more green infrastructure, so we have to start using the roofs and facades of buildings in this direction,” said Patrik Gustavsson, Managing Director of The Amager Bakke Foundation.
Gustavsson presented Copenhagen’s latest landmark: CopenHill, an artificial ski slope and recreational hiking area, built on top of a waste management center.
“This is a modern landmark symbolizing Copenhagen’s attempt to be the world’s first climate-neutral capital… It’s our way of giving something back to the city.”

Steve Vranakis: Bringing technology and creativity together

Having worked with digital, design and advertising companies around the world and helping to create one of the top digital technology studios – the Google Creative Lab – Steve Vranakis left that all behind and returned to Greece to become the Chief Creative Officer at the Greek Prime Minister’s office and the Special Adviser to PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
During his speech, Vranakis focused on bringing technology and creativity together for the benefit of Greece. “We must celebrate the culture and creativity that are happening right now.”

David Rowan: Digital behavior can’t be ignored

The founder and editor-in-chief of WIRED UK (2008-2017), David Rowan spoke on innovation and technological trends. “Innovation relates to the business core, its aim and its ability to adapt new technology to new customer requirements so as to keep serving that aim. This mentality must be fueled throughout the company by the leadership team.”

Session 2: Observing Destinations

Alejandro Barrera: Millenials look for verified authenticity

“Millenials travel to find answers. Looking for verified authenticity, they use technology for decision making in order to build their experience. They want to support local economies at -their favorite- underdeveloped destinations,” said Alejandro Barrera, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Aleph, while giving insight on the travel preferences of millennials. “They also have no fixed accommodation choices, as during their holiday their preferences vary – from staying at a boutique hotel that combines good value and authenticity, to staying at a campsite.”

Douglas Quinby: We must shift from the ‘how’ to the ‘why’

Arival’s co-founder and CEO, Douglas Quinby, spoke about how experiences – those that travelers will live at a destination – are the motive for travel. “Experiences are what drive travel. Transportation and accommodation are the enablers, the ‘how’ of travel. Tours, activities, attractions are the ‘why’. To capture the next generation, we as industry must shift from the ‘how’ to the ‘why’.”

Petra Stušek: If the locals love it then so will visitors

Ljubljana Tourism Council Executive Director Petra Stušek presented how Solovenia’s Ljubljana went from a “hidden gem” to a popular tourism destination. “It remained a gem, but is facing some challenges due to popularity. Switching to renewable sources, using new technology innovations to disperse visitors, closing city center for traffic, planning zero waste and making it accessible to all is helping us achieve sustainable development. And most of all, not excessively annoyed locals.”

Catharina Fischer: Having a digital culture is essential

Digital Marketing Strategist and advisor to Tourismuszukunft Network, Catharina Fischer, analyzed ways to acquire a digital culture, highlighting that the marketing of tourism destinations has been undergoing constant changes in recent years. “Tourism (destination) marketing is in constant transition over the last years. On the one hand we have on-going changes in travel needs and behaviors and on the other hand we have dominant global platforms and a constant evolving technology. If we still just talking about marketing strategies we will fail the need to rethink & reshape business models as well as organizational structures.”

Tia Hallanoro: Problems can be solved through radical collaboration

“Sustainability is the biggest disruptor the travel industry will ever face,” said Tia Hallanoro, director of Brand Communications & Digital Development, Helsinki Marketing. “In Helsinki, we believe that every service provider is ready for improvement – and this is why we wish to offer tools and a platform for each individual and every company to function even more sustainably. Use your platform for action and don’t shy away from unlikely alliances. Radical collaboration is the way to solve problems that are too big for anyone to solve independently.”

Session 3: Time Machine

Dianne McGrath: Waste must be redefined as a valuable resource

Issues related to sustainable food systems and zero waste, were analyzed by Dianne McGrath, a Sustainable Development Specialist and Astronaut Candidate for Mars One. According to McGrath, there will be no waste on planet Mars. “Survival relies on 100% sustainability. To achieve this ‘waste’ is redefined as a valuable resource; and how we REACT to the inevitable challenges determines our future. In reality, this is no different here on Earth.”

Steve Lowy: Hoteliers must adapt to technology

Toposophy UK’s Steve Lowy noted that the hotel industry of the future has to challenge itself to stay relevant. “Using technology to enhance the experience rather than remove people will be powerful and will allow hotels to maximise time on what they are best at … looking after customer with an amazing hospitality experience.”

Ted Papakostas: Culture can meet the demands of today’s travelers

Presenting cultural resources in a creative way should be a priority among the actions to meet the demands of modern travelers that seek new experiences, according to Greek archaeologist, Ted Papakostas. “By using technology tools, an archaeological site can increase its traffic and expand the interest of its audience… This process that can only bring benefits as we strive for greater interconnection between the tourism sector and culture.”

David Bizer: Successful employer branding requires investment

After inspiring the audience of SETE’s conference last year, David Bizer, founder and CEO of Talent Fountain, returned with a masterclass on employer branding, during which he shared hands-on experience of how an employer becomes a brand by attracting the most talented employees.
“Talent is choosing where they want to work, to make a career & the most impact. It’s critical you are showing these potential candidates that all of this is possible at your company. Successful employer branding is going to require investment & strategy”

Tech Alley for Greek start-ups

INOMO, a company offering tailor-made furniture to 5-star hotels, was one of the company's in SETE's “Tech Alley”. Pictured is INOMO's founder, Vivian Paraschou.

INOMO, a company offering tailor-made furniture to 5-star hotels, was one of the company’s in SETE’s “Tech Alley”. Pictured is INOMO’s founder, Vivian Paraschou.

At this year’s conference, SETE introduced its first “Tech Alley”, an exhibition space dedicated to Greek start-up companies. The confederation gave new talents the opportunity to present technology services and products to the Greek tourism market’s entrepreneurs and executives.

Conclusions of all the speakers of SETE's conference were noted in real time.

Conclusions of all the speakers of SETE’s conference were noted in real time.

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”.

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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