Greece is taking a leading role globally in the restart of MICE tourism with its health protocols and best practices, according to Greek Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki.
Speaking during the 11th Annual Meeting of the Hellenic Association of Professional Congress Organizers & Destination Events Specialists (HAPCO & DES) in Athens on Tuesday, Zacharaki highlighted that MICE was a social activity that involves people from many countries.
In 2020 and 2021, the sector was severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with Greece and other countries turning events from live into digital and hybrid.
“Greece (two years after the pandemic) is taking a leading role in the reopening of the MICE industry and setting the example for other countries that are already following its health protocols and best practices,” she said.
During the meeting, Zacharaki participated in a roundtable discussion that focused on “The power of cooperation on a national level” with Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (EATA) CEO Vangelis Vlachos, Thessaloniki Convention Bureau President Yiannis Aslanis, Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos, HAPCO & DES President Irene Tolis, Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) BoD Member Konstantinos Alexopoulos and Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies’ (HATTA) President Nikolaos Kelaiditis.
The role of hospitality
During the roundtable discussion, the president of Greece’s hotel chamber, Alexandros Vassilikos, agreed with Zacharaki and referred to Greece’s hospitality protocols that have also been adopted by organizations in other countries.
“The protocols we conveyed to HOTREC [the umbrella association of national trade associations representing the hotels, restaurants, cafes and similar establishments in Europe] and the proposals made by the Greek government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for Covid-19, have helped Greece build its credibility. The country has become a frontrunner and gained [international] trust which is evident in the demand for future conferences,” he said.
According to Vassilikos, the return to normality will take time but eventually MICE tourism will recover due to its human nature and need for in-person communication.
Conferences: No cancellations on sight
Looking ahead, HAPCO-DES President Irene Tolis expects for conferences and events that had been postponed due to Covid-19, to take place rescheduled as planned this year, despite the ongoing pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war crisis.
However, she expects Greece to attract new MICE events no earlier than 2023 and most likely in 2024 and 2025.
“This may be a ‘poor’ year  for conference tourism, but Greece must continue to support the sector,” she said during the HAPCO & DES meeting.
Titled “Reconnect to accelerate”, the 11th Annual Meeting of HAPCO & DES will take place until Wednesday, April 13, at the Divani Caravel Hotel in Athens.