Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau
A HARSH REALITY for the tourism industry in Athens is that it was left without an official convention bureau for too long, despite that fact it has attracted a satisfactory MICE business volume.
The lack of an official institution that would coordinate promotion and bidding efforts, aid the destination’s market share growth, represent the city in international events and act as a point of reference for foreign MICE professionals or clients was becoming a pressing issue.
It was during 2007 that a critically important decision was made to proceed with all necessary steps towards establishing the first official City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau. After several months of thorough research into the best international practices, the Athens CVB was launched in early 2008.
Alexis Galinos, Managing Director at Athens Development and Destination Management Agency discusses the development of the Bureau over the years and its plans for the future.
Europe & Middle East Outlook (EME): Since inception, how has Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?
Alexis Galinos (AG): The ACVB has undergone many changes, in terms of corporate structure, business planning, marketing and promotion objectives, but one thing remains constant throughout. The aim is to always improve, becoming flexible so as to better follow the collective and joint efforts of its stakeholders and to achieve an ever better level of services. Since 2012, for example, it has been restructured and expanded - we actually leveraged and integrated the ’V’ in the ’Athens CB’ - while at the same time, it has been under constant evaluation and resourceful human capital management.
Apart from its fundamental mission to promote Athens as an ideal and safe - safety and security, as you understand, has proven to be one of the most critical factors for destinations in Europe, during the past few years - destination for meetings, conferences and all about the MICE sector. The ACVB has managed to evolve successfully by enhancing its presence in the main and new source markets and as well as strengthening its institutional role. We have also pursued a more active and creative participation in international organisations and forums, like ICCA and of course we have raised the level of the City’s representation overseas, by upgrading our presence in trade shows and exhibitions and by organising targeted road shows in selected markets.
EME: Taking a more general industry stance, how would you evaluate the tourism sector in Athens now compared to its condition when the Visitors Bureau began?
AG: Most importantly, the City of Athens has been active in creating alliances to promote the standing of our city. Together with Aegean Airlines and the Athens International Airport, the City of Athens has formed the Athens Tourism Partnership.
This landmark alliance brings together key players from the private and public sectors for the first time, to promote Athens as an ideal, contemporary year long city-break destination. Upon its foundation, the ATP, in collaboration with Marketing Greece, has launched a campaign called “One City. Never Ending Stories” that promotes the multitude of authentic experiences, on offer in Athens. A city that boasts more than 3,000 hours of sunlight a year, only 20 minutes from the renowned Athens Riviera, with countless sights, attractions, monuments, museums, neighbourhoods, shops, restaurants, colourful markets and bazaars.
Overall we have been reaping the rewards, with a record year for arrivals in Athens. An all time record of five million visitors, in 2017, not only boosted the local economy but also attracted investment by major hotel groups. Moreover, Athens is now consistently making the list of ICCA’S top conference destinations in Europe, confirming what we have accomplished these past few years in the area of business tourism. It is no exaggeration to say Athens is experiencing a “tourism spring”.
EME: What is in store for Athens over the course of 2018 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?
AG: Our immediate plans include the expansion and further development of our signature Travel Trade Athens event. So far we have been attracting professionals from more than 25 countries around the world but we are looking to attract an even more diverse crowd.
We are also planning to enrich our outward activities to attract associations and showcase our potential as a conference destination with targeted campaigns and events, in an effort to reposition the City of Athens in the MICE industry and to promote the Greek capital as a world-class meeting and convention destination.
EME: Finally, looking forward, if we were to speak again in three-five years time, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back, both in regards to the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau as an entity, and in regards to the business travel industry in Athens as a whole?
AG: Athens is a great city to visit all year round and it is only fair that is has started to rise as an exciting southern Europe city trip destination. We know culture and the arts, history and heritage are significant reasons visitors come to Athens. We also recognise this unique combination is what makes Athens stand out. But the city is much more than this and our main goal is to highlight the long list of experiences on offer both for leisure and business visitors. I am confident that the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau will continue to work towards repositioning and promoting Athens as a world-class meeting and convention destination through activities that will establish Athens as one of the most competitive conference destinations revealing its potential and unique advantages.