Conference tourism in Greece has suffered major losses, as over 95 percent of the international events scheduled to take place in the country in 2020, have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, a new survey said on Thursday.
In the case of cancelled national events, the percentage has reached around 95 percent for conference venues and 79 percent for companies active in the conference and meetings (MICE) sector.
The information is part of a nationwide survey conducted during the first 15 days of July by the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers (HAPCO), the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and the Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB).
A total of 122 companies from all over Greece participated in the survey, which aims to offer insight on the impact of the global health crisis on the Greek MICE industry.
According to its findings, the cancelation and postponement of events has reduced revenue by 76 percent for conference and events companies and by 69 percent for hotels, event and conference venues.
Furthermore, 20 percent of the companies that took part in the survey said that many events scheduled for 2021 have also been canceled or postponed.
The survey also shows that cancellations mostly concern corporate events, incentive meetings and exhibitions.
Virtual events on the rise
Meanwhile, virtual conferences and events are on the rise, as they constitute an alternative option for the MICE industry.
The sector quickly responded to the new challenges with 83 percent of companies having already adopted the necessary digital tools for the organization of online and hybrid events*.
Sixty five percent said they had already taken over the organization of such events.
Moreover, one out of two MICE executives believes that in the next months, part of events requiring physical presence will be replaced by online/hybrid events.
MICE professionals did point out that nothing can replace the value of in-person conferences and stressed the need for the immediate restart of the industry, which they place in the spring or summer of 2021.
“With flexibility, cooperation and proper strategy planning for the promotion of destinations, we can look forward to the restart of the sector with optimism,” HAPCO President Irini Toli said.
Athens Development & Destinations Management Agency (ADDMA) CEO Vangelis Vlachos said that the Municipality of Athens has secured funds for the development of an integrated promotion plan for the destination, the digital upgrade of services and experiences – even with e-travels – and the organization of the Travel Trade Athens in April 2021 in the Greek capital.
Furthermore, Vlachos said that ADDMA was looking to attract more events to Athens in the future.
The survey also mentioned that MICE professionals requested flexibility in payment policies and the strict implementation of health protocols.
According to TCB President Yiannis Aslanis, the three organizations will continue to cooperate in order to confront the problems and support MICE professionals and tourism destinations.
*A hybrid event is a trade show, conference seminar, workshop or other meeting that combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component – With info from Wikipedia.