Greek Press Conference in the World Travel Market 2012

The Greek Press Conference. Olga Kefalogianni, Greek Minister for Tourism is in the middle, while the Greek Ambassador Konstantinos Bikas is on the left.

I’ve been to many Greek press conferences and I have seen Greek Tourism ministers come and go, but the 2013 plan presented to the international press in the 2012 World Travel Market impressed everyone, even the most sceptical of Greek domestic journalists. And believe me, having occupied the seat one of them who thought it was his by right, they can be very aggressive. Full marks to Olga Kefalogianni, Greek Minister for Tourism and the President of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) Nikos Karachalios.

What we saw was a sophisticated marketing and investment plan with deadlines, milestones and keywords that was remarkable in its detail. A repositioning phase (Oct-Dec 2012) will be followed by a rethink (Jan-Feb 2013) which will be internal in nature; a rediscover/re-operate phase (March/April 2013) with a team that will comprise both domestic and external stakeholders; a reinvestment phase (May 2013); a revisit phase during the summer months when more data will be collected; and a restructure & rebrand phase in Sep-Oct 2013, followed by a relaunch in Nov 2013.

To show that the rebranding is in progress we saw a set of cluster concepts around which re-positioning will take place. Golden (beaches), Gourmet (food)  and Gorgeous (landscapes) may be obvious, but others like God are not: the GNTO will be focusing not only on religious tourism (which is real for Orthodox countries like Russia) but also on Greece’s multicultural past, with its wealth of Ottoman Muslim inheritance.

The GNTO also studied the particulars of UK operators and consumers. Arkenford Ltd presented us the results of an extensive analysis regarding their perceptions about Greece. British holidaymakers are sun seekers who want sun, sea and relaxation. They range across a range of socioeconomic groups, from youngsters who want to party in Faliraki and Malia to families who want a package holiday in Corfu. UK consumers are highly price-sensitive and about three-quarters go on an inclusive package independent of destination. This is quite remarkable: as anyone who has read my Cyclades blog, every island is different and worth experiencing separately. Although there is a strong name awareness of individual islands (Corfu, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Mykonos to name but a few) there is a lack of awareness about the diversity on offer.

The USPs of Greece (a brand name in itself) according to Arkenford are hospitality, value for money, excellent beaches & sea, unspoilt scenery and local culture. This is lost to many operators who do not differentiate enough among the resorts and focus on the package rather than the destination. Greece is sold on elements of the package (and the name of the operator) and not necessarily on destination attributes.

But what was really jaw-dropping, was the Google Trends study presented afterwards offering finely tuned data. Britain and Germany are the top two tourist sources for Greece, yet Greece only comes 13th in the Google searches for holidays by Brits. This highlights that the potential in the UK market is enormous. Furthermore, the Brits look to book in January and February as well as July and August; while the Germans start in March and April and the Italians leave it until June. This knowledge allows strategic advertising about Greece in these countries for a better return on investment. Impressive, no?

Barring the odd political earthquake, I’m positive about Greek Tourism in 2013. Satisfaction is high among visitors with 83% rating their overall experience very highly and 79% praising then local welcome, while the same percentage would recommend Greece to their friends.

Let’s hope so, because a quick shot of tourist cash is what the country needs right now.