Athens Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau

EME Outlook - - Athens -

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.

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