The Greek Press Conference At the 2014 World Travel Market marked a return to the good old days – and by that I mean pre-crisis. In those days the main worries and questions centred upon whether Greece is good value with respect to Turkey, Tunisia or Egypt. Since 2009 the focus had been on the uncertainty regarding a Grexit, any potential disruption due to strikes and political unrest. I remember distinctly a Tourism Minister being asked directly and rather rudely whether anyone should take his speech seriously, as he may not be in office in six months’ time (he wasn’t).
But roll on 2014 and the news are good.
It looks like 2014 will be a bumper year: 20 million visitors plus 2 million cruise passengers signal the return of Greece to the big league of tourist countries with the sector responsible for €14billion revenue, 700,000 jobs and accounting for 20% of GDP.
Greek Tourism, as minister Olga Kefalogianni announced, is going through a revival. No one is taking the clients lightly; the foundations have been revamped; the infrastructure upgraded; the products offered have expanded with sun, sea and sand not being the sole focus; and there has been a lot of quiet, institutional reform.
Indeed, the most exciting prospect for the future looks the licensing of a network of seaplanes which will serve Greek islands that have no airports. Imagine buying a ticket from London to Patmos and just changing planes at Athens airport for a 45-minute flight instead of having to travel to Piraeus for a 12-hour ferry journey.
Conferences have also returned to Greece with the Travel Bloggers TbEX being staged in Athens (October 2014) and the ABTA Conference being planned at Costa Navarino in 2015.
This is, indeed, good news for the Greek Tourism Organisation’s 100th anniversary: it was established in 1914 by Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos – the one who has given his name to the Athens International Airport – as The Bureau of Foreigners and Exhibitions. Thomas Cook was one of its first clients, offering a Classical tour, while describing Epidaurus as the Tunbridge Wells of Greece; thankfully metaphors have recovered since.
Notably, the first GNTO office abroad was the London one back in 1963, showcasing a long relationship between Brits and Greece. The UK is one of Greece’s most loyal markets with visitors up 16% up this year and making up 20% of the total.
As Panos Leivadas, Secretary general of GNTO pointed out, this has been a record year because of political stability, legislative reform plus the embracing of social media and the Internet for campaigns. Typical of this approach is the release of the latest promo video which is aimed at the American market and was released – where else? – on YouTube.
It is, actually, quite good.