Op-Ed: Kostas Bakoyannis on Athens tourism
Athens is back. After a decade moving from crisis to crisis, we have returned with confidence and dynamism. We have a lot of catching up to do, but little by little Athens is changing in big ways.
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to re-establish ourselves internationally, not only for the Acropolis and Greek hospitality, and not only as the home of fresh food and nightlife. Most of all, during the last two years we have demonstrated our professionalism. We have been moving quickly to upgrade all of our services, and we created an umbrella of protection for all Athenians regardless of whether they are residents or visitors who will stay for only a few days.
Athens has once again become a global destination – we can see it in the numbers. We have established a reputation as a “hotbed” for creative culture and innovation. We are capturing attention with our own narratives, and we finally have tools like This is Athens to promote them. We are expanding the idea of Athens to include our parks and public spaces, and slowly we are breaking the bad habits that made visitors see Athens as nothing more than a stopover destination.
We need to change our way of thinking and understand our city holistically. We do not want a competition between tourism and the local economy, instead we need to treat our destination and our city as one place.
Above all, we are inviting visitors to see a city that wants to live its life, which is vital and growing, which takes inspiration from the past and belongs unquestionably to the future.
When we invest in the quality of life of our residents, we are investing in Athens as a destination for visitors.
At the same time, we should not be afraid to ask visitors to support Athens on this journey. In fact, we are already seeing the benefits of this approach in a burst of construction activity throughout the city that is creating new infrastructure both for visitors and for locals.
Athens is making a transition. That’s why the City of Athens and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) have established one of the first Destination Management and Marketing Organizations in Greece.
In May 2022 we launched the first This is Athens City Festival, a month-long celebration that was met with incredible enthusiasm and brought great vibes to the city. We finally got to have the street parties and shared experiences that we missed during the pandemic.
But I think the real success was that it gave Athenians and visitors a new reason to explore the city and our many urban spaces that had been forgotten. They were excited by what they found, and that’s a collective achievement of which we should all be proud.
The festival will be back in early spring 2023 to support all season tourism in Athens.
Mayor of Athens
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