Greece: The Greek picture

The GNTO's Makis Peppas talks to Adam Woods about the country's post-Olympics surge.

MAKIS PEPPAS, director, Greek National Tourism Organisation UK & Ireland

- What are Greece's great strengths as a C&I destination?

Greece has proven to be a highly focused and resourceful destination, with knowledgeable professionals and modern infrastructure capable of hosting memorable events of the highest calibre.

- What have been the major events of the past 12 months or so?

Athens has succeeded in organising some very important and popular events, such as the Champions League Final, the Basketball Euroleague Final Four and the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.

- What is the tourist board doing to promote Greece, specifically as a C&I destination?

The new conference campaign was launched at the end of 2006. We organise fam trips to Greece for planners, corporates and agencies, encourage press trips to Greece and present the product, directly or with the cooperation of companies, to the corporate market.

- What are the main C&I regions in Greece?

The main C&I regions in Greece can be divided into the mainland - Athens, Thessaloniki, Olympia, Ioannina and Alexandroupoli - and the islands: Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Corfu, Mykonos, Santorini and Tinos.

- Do any of the other regions present any serious challenge to Athens?

Athens remains the most popular C&I destination, but Thessaloniki is moving ahead and gaining market share. According to the Thessaloniki Convention & Visitors Bureau's (TCVB) report, 2006 was a record year. The city enjoyed a 37 per cent increase in national and international association conferences held there, with 179 national & international events, including the 9th Convention of the Fellowship of European Broadcasters (FEB) and the 14th Congress of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Eurochambers). That said, Rhodes, Mykonos and Crete also did very well last year.

- Are there any key infrastructural plans for Athens?

The Attiko Metro is scheduled to expand from 31 to 65 stations. The expansion will change the transportation map of the city and improve the quality of life significantly as it will serve many highly populated areas and institutions such as hospitals and universities.

- And from a conference point of view?

The new, state-of-the-art exhibition and conference centre at the Athens International Airport is scheduled to open in 2009. It will cover an area of 50,000m2, offer more than 3,000 parking spaces and be able to accommodate 700 delegates.

The construction of the new exhibition and convention centre in Piraeus will take place on a 75,000m2 site in the Palataki area. The project is scheduled for completion by 2010. The Faliro Pavilion, the 2004 Olympic Sports venue that housed the Tae Kwon Do competitions, has hosted many events since the Games. Plans are underway to develop the venue as an Athens convention centre in the next two years.

- Finally, what is Greece 's biggest C&I asset?

In effect, the selling point of Greece as a C&I destination is the professionalism of the people involved in the market, the quality of services, the good value for money and the multitude of things you can do when you get there.

VOX POPS

- Angela Kipling, managing director, Kipling Events

Athens is extremely versatile, because you can give people a resort feel with beach activities - which is good because, given the choice of hundreds of activities, many people just want to sun themselves on a beach.

But then you have also got a very cosmopolitan city with a plethora of venues, including some ancient landmarks. The Old Stock Exchange is a wonderful venue, especially for financial institutions, and it is very under used.

The main hall is decorated in frescoes inspired by Greek mythical figures with financial relevance, like the god of justice and the god of money. It is wonderful and it is also right next to the old trading floor with its original trading board, which was the precursor of the ones they use today.

The board actually works, so you can have a virtual Stock Exchange in operation, with prices and companies.

- Sally Hunt, managing director, Worldspan Group

Athens is a classic example of a post-Olympic city. The new airport works well and has excellent road and rail connections into the city.

The smog has gone, the traffic moves freely and public transport is clean and efficient. The diversity on offer makes it ideal for practically any type or size of event.

The hotels, many of which were desperately in need of their pre-Olympic refurbs, and a great range of venues and restaurants, offer variety for balanced programmes, with plenty of opportunities to inject some 'wow' factor.

Athens is both a city and a resort, as well as being a monumental and archaeological wonder, and it really is one of the few multi-purpose destinations we do not hesitate to recommend to clients.

- Panos Fragakis, director, Vista Events

From my point of view, Athens, and Attica in general, is the top destination in Greece, first because of its accessibility and, secondly, because, after the Olympics, the whole infrastructure has changed completely.

Places like Crete, Rhodes and Mykonos, which I would say are the main island destinations, have a lot of facilities, with some very good hotels and venues. However, accessibility is a bit tricky because you have to go via Athens.

The way we sell Athens is in terms of summer and winter groups. In the summer, it is better to use the hotels and venues on the coast. In winter, a city-centre hotel has everything around you, but you are still close to the coast.

There are too many new venues in Athens to name, because there are private estates, such as the Byzantine Estate, opening up all the time.

- Anupa White, director, Principal Promotions

I think the product in Greece is excellent now. Athens has a little bit of excitement about it and there is so much to do on land or water.

My most recent group there went to the Divani Apollon on the coast. We did a three-day team-building event and conference for a management consultancy, with about 400 delegates including partners.

There was a welcome event at the hotel, a typical Greek event in Plaka and then the gala dinner was held at the Byzantine Estate, which is about 40 minutes away. It is a private estate in the hills and it is extremely good for that type of thing. We had dinner outside in the grounds. The weather was perfect, we had fireworks going up the hill - it was like having a garden party in someone's house.

DIRECTORY - GREECE
Greek National Tourism Organisation
Contact: Makis Peppas, 020 7499 8161
Email: info@gnto.co.uk
Web: www.visitgreece.gr

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