Athens and Thessaloniki on the path of restarting conference tourism

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After many months in which the industry of conferences and professional events, which is part of MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences / Conventions, Exhibitions / Events) entered the “ice” due to a pandemic, it is time for both Athens and and Thessaloniki to make their own restart.
“Athens has a legacy that makes the future auspicious, as it is in 17th place in the global ranking of cities (with the data of 2019, since in 2020 the pandemic stopped all activities). While for Europe, Athens is even closer to the top ten, rising to 12th place in 2019, from 16th place in 2018. And in the European ranking, the results place it in the highest position it held in the last 10 years, according to the international congress of the conference industry, International Congress & Convention Association -ICCA “, stressed the president of the Athens Development and Tourism Promotion Company (EATA) of the Municipality Melina Daskalakis speaking to APE-MPE on the sidelines of the event” The Greek Meetings Industry – Open WebForum Series 2: Insights into the Future “.
On the other hand, Thessaloniki had an equally upward trend since before the pandemic it had managed to be in the 40 most important conference destinations in Europe, “climbing” 14 places in the general classification. While globally it was in 2019 in 70th place, marking an increase of 23 places compared to the previous year when it held 93rd place.

Athens: The time of the pandemic was used to upgrade the infrastructure
For Athens, the great advantage compared to other European cities is the variety, as Mrs. Daskalaki mentions. “It was a destination that was in the process of being launched and I estimate that gradually it will not only return to previous levels but will become even more popular. It is the city where you can admire and visit important archeological sites, such as Rome for example, but Athens in relation to Rome also has the most beautiful Riviera. It is the city of 20 minutes. From the center of Athens you can be at a distance of 20 minutes in many different places, enjoy swimming in the sea or hiking in Parnitha or Penteli or even island hopping with day trips etc. It also has an incredible range of activities for to meet all requirements. It has culture and nightlife, it is friendly to all ages and covers many different needs “, he explains.
At the same time, he points out that the period of the pandemic was not left unused. It was the time when the city’s infrastructure was upgraded, such as at least 200 of the 1,000 paving roads in progress, the creation of “pocket parks” and other green spaces, the renovation of the fountains and the upgrading of the digital services of the Municipality, something that which made the city extra friendly not only to the so-called digital nomads but also to the workation. As Mrs. Daskalaki noted, the former are the well-known category of people who choose the place where they will work based on their needs, as their work is done from a distance, while the latter, who are a more “new” trend, are people who combine work with vacation (work + vacation). These are mainly young people from abroad, who choose to work long distances for a while and stay in Athens a little longer, making their vacations.
However, indicative of the dynamics that Athens has, according to the president of EATA, is the fact that at the beginning of last year, nine significant investments in the field of tourism were announced, concerning large hotel units, which despite the appearance of the new coronavirus pandemic have progressed and are gradually being completed.

Thessaloniki: The advantage of a cozy and safe city
Thessaloniki, with the upgraded airport by Fraport Greece and the development plan of OLTH in progress, is restarting with an additional asset, as the vice-president of the Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB) Makis Monastiridis told APE-MPE. “Despite the restrictive measures for the holding of the conferences, which pose several difficulties, I estimate that gradually the conferences will recover. It is certain that 2021 will be a difficult year, but now we are looking to the future “, says Mr. Monastiridis. “Thessaloniki will find its pace and one of its important advantages is the safe environment it has. It is the city that gives the visitor the feeling of warm and friendly, cozy and fiendly, something that especially in the post-covid era will count a lot “, he adds.
By Nikol Kazantzidou

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