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Cluster, brand and marketing abroad

06 March 2012 / 15:03:43  GRReporter
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Maria S. Topalova 


    Greek tourist enterprises are small and they can’t afford to advertise themselves abroad. They have to consolidate in congenial groups, find their brand and do their marketing abroad together. This proposal came from Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourist companies, who met with foreign correspondents accredited in Athens. Therefore, the Association proposes to establish a joint company of private and public shareholders to undertake the advertising of Greek tourism abroad. The name of the new company will be Marketing Greece and 70 percent of its shares will be held by the Association of tourist enterprises and 30 per cent - by the Greek State
    Andreas Andreadis acknowledged that this is also the task of the Hellenic Tourist Organization as well as that in the past there were also numerous public campaigns to promote tourism, which however were very unsuccessful. The partnership between private and public sector, which the Association suggests is a guarantee that this time the campaign will succeed. "The beauty of Greek tourism is that it is done by numerous small and medium size businesses. In other words, earnings from tourism are distributed among many people. And that is the difference with shipping, for example, where the big money is distributed between a few ship owners", says Andreadis.
    Research of the Association of tourist companies shows that tourism is the most important factor for the regional development in Greece - 9600 hotels throughout the country with 764 000 beds, 4500 travel agencies, 79 shipping companies and 138 airlines are serving the tourist flow. In 2011 the industry has made 15.7 percent of the Greek GDP, 18.4 percent of all working people are employed in it, one euro invested in tourism brings a return of 2.18 euro. Although 2011 was a difficult year for the Greek economy, the country was visited by 16.7 million tourists, which is a record number. The increase compared to 2010 is 10 percent.
    "The first thing people around the world think of when talking about Greece is tourism. If there is only one sector which is able to lead the country out of the crisis, it is tourism", said Andreas Andreadis. He said it is understandable that the Prime Minister of Greece Lucas Papademos and the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos are dealing with the PSI - the procedure for writing off the debt to private creditors. But all the other ministers should be involved in tourism. Therefore, at the end of March the Association of Tourist Enterprises will prepare and disclose its assessment on the contribution of each of the ministers to the development of tourism. From the words of Andreadis it became clear that this assessment will not be equally favourable for all the members of Papademos’s team.
    Members of the association are cautious in their expectations for the tourism in 2012, as the PSI procedure has slowed down bookings which for traditional markets such as Germany and Austria have currently decreased by 30 percent as compared with the same period of 2011. Of course, they hope that after completion of the PSI they will catch up on the gap, but there’s no guarantee. The reason for this optimism are the flights planned by airlines to Greek airports which are as many as they were last year. The minimum goal is not to fall below 16 million visitors.
    Long-term objectives of the Association, however, are far more ambitious. According to a study of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, tourism could earn 50 billion euro annually to the GDP of Greece, and the country has the potential to be in top 10 tourist destinations in the world. Currently it is in 17th place, although according to the travel index of the World Economic Forum it is on 29th position. What could be done to achieve these goals? Entrepreneurs in the filed of business urge the government to carry out the necessary reforms for financial stabilization and market liberalisation.
    "The post junta society in Greece is now bankrupt and we are all paying its bills. Reforms should be made not because creditors are pressuring us, but because without these reforms Greece is through", said with certainty Andreas Andreadis. According to him the country needs reforms, not a new currency and therefore he strongly opposes the idea of exiting the eurozone. "The return of the drachma would be a return to neediness and poverty in Greece. What kind of competitive tourism can be developed in a poor and miserable country", said further Andreadis.
    The association calls for a stable tax system that does not change every three months, a Value Added Tax of 6.5% on the tourist packages and 13% on food and soft drinks. It insists on full market liberalisation and on the final abolition of cabotage. In order for Greece to become a top destination for the routes of cruise ships, it needs at least 5 new ports of the same size as the port of Piraeus. One particularly successful example from the last two years is the luxurious holiday resort Costa Navarino in Peloponnese - Greece has the potential to create at least 15-20 new holiday settlements of this type.
    Entrepreneurs operating in the tourist sector see huge unutilized opportunities in the field of cultural tourism, which can give a new life to the current concept of the industry sea & sun. Unused capacity exists also in the gourmet tourism, studying of winemaking traditions, the creation of elite golf and yacht clubs. The two largest cities Athens and Thessaloniki can be included in the city brake series for short urban trips mostly on weekends. Mountainous tourism is still an unknown area in Greece with its undiscovered yet "treasures" in the northern and central part of Greece and on the Peloponnese.
    Or, as Ioannis Retsos president of the hotel association in Attica summarized it best: "Our goal is to escape from the seasonality in tourism. Currently in Greece the tourist season lasts three months, but we must make it last throughout the whole year."


Follow Maria on Twitter @MariaSTopalova

Tags: tourism economic crisis Andreas Andreadis Ioannis Retsos hotels visitors GDP
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