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Greeks Love Exotic Places

10 June 2010 / 11:06:58  GRReporter
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“Greeks love exotic places,” this is the conclusion of the President of the Hellenic Tourist Association Vasilka Skaya that speaks specifically to GRReporter about the tourist business in Greece, the preferred holiday destinations of the Greeks and the changes in conditions of crisis. The Greek Tourist Association exists over 80 years and disposes of the best tourist and travel agencies in the country. Furthermore, the president of the tourist organization Vasiliki is the owner of Day Rise Holidays travel agency, which is based in Thessaloniki and operates twenty years in the field of tourism. Representative of the real business Vasilka Skaya  presented the viewpoint of the Greek travel agencies for the state of tourism today.

Tell us a little more about your travel agency and the Greek Tourism Organisation, which you manage.

I have been in the tourist business for 25 years. The activity of Day Rise Holidays is generally associated with outgoing tourism, which means that we operate more as a travel agency for holiday tours abroad. Most of our customers are Greek residents who want to go on a holiday out of the country. We have a department on the island of Corfu, which deals with tourists from abroad, but we mainly work with Greeks. We try to be as better as possible and offer the best services, because service quality is everything in this business. We give utmost importance of service quality and customer satisfaction.  

The Greek Tourist Association in turn is the heart of the Greek tourism, its spine. The organization has about 1700 members, and its management consists of 15 members. Almost the entire tourist flow to and from the country depends on the travel agencies in the organization as well as the activities that are directly dependent on tourism.

Where the Greek likes to travel according to your observations?

The head office of our company is in Thessaloniki, so we have many customers who frequently travel on business or tourism to Bulgaria and Turkey. Other favorite destinations of the Greeks are Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Dubai. Generally, Greeks love exotic places. Many of the Greek tourists are interested in the so-called educational tourism. They want to know the world, foreign cultures and habits. They easily travel to other continents and remote destinations as a whole. They are curious and the long distances do not frighten them.

Can you say that there is an increase in the flow of tourists from Greece to Bulgaria and why most Greeks are traveling to Bulgaria – on business or pleasure?

We can definitely say that the flow of Greek tourists have significantly increased over the last ten years. A common reason for traveling to our northern neighbor is a holiday. Especially popular in Greece are the Bulgarian ski resorts Bansko and Borovets. In my opinion winter tourism is strongest when traveling to Bulgaria. We joke that very often in the winter if you are in a restaurant in Bansko for example, it seems like you have never left Greece – you hear Greek speech, Greek music everywhere. The people there are very hospitable and the Greeks prefer to spend their winter holidays in Bulgaria.

Which destinations are no longer so popular as a few years ago?

The interest in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai has definitely dropped. These are destinations that have nothing much to give the tourists. They are not like Greece or Bulgaria – countries of long history and culture and beautiful nature, which is a pleasure to the eye and something different to the mind. Tall buildings and huge shopping malls are not sufficient to retain permanent tourist interest in the country. People travel to these countries more on business, not so much on holiday. Overall, after the big bang, they are no longer of interest to the average tourist.

How has the tourist market recently changed after the deepening of the economic crisis in the country?

The truth is that the tourist market has not remained unaffected by the crisis. The volume has dropped to a certain degree and the market as a whole has started to change. There is a constant development that changes the trends every day. I think, tourism is rather evolving and changing than shrinking due to the crisis. The changes we observe are based on the knowledge and interests of tourists, not on any other side factors. New destinations are detected continuously. What the crisis can affect mostly is the price of the service, especially for remote destinations. Cultural and historical centers in more distant countries remain in the background when the price of airfares, for example, grows. Then the tourists choose destinations that meet or are close to their financial capabilities. Sometimes they choose to rest on the Greek islands or take trips at more attractive prices to closer places like Tunisia or Morocco.

Why Greek hotels keep higher prices for Greek nationals than for foreigners?

The hotels have contracts with travel agencies in the country and abroad. They have their own terms and policies. The hotels offer the tour agencies certain prices for particular types of rooms for a period. When the tour agency has not “sold” the number of rooms agreed with the hotel, it has to lower their price on the market. In some cases, it can even offer the rooms at a price lower than agreed, and thus lose some money, just to be able to meet the obligations to the hotel. The principle is if we lose money, let lose as less as possible.  
Unfortunately, Greeks, as a whole, always prefer to travel in the busiest months of the summer - between July 20 and August 15. This is the period of hardest work and highest demand. In these cases there is no difference in prices for Greeks or for foreigners. If the Greeks, however, change their thinking and learn to make reservations six months earlier, like the German tourists, they will be able to pay much lower prices than those in the last minute. This also applies to the Greek tourist agencies – they can offer better prices to the Greek citizens, but only in earlier periods. In other words, if there is a difference in the prices for Greek and foreign tourists, it depends on when the booking was made, not what nationality is the tourist.

What do you think are the advantages of Greece as a tourist destination and why the Greeks go on vacation in foreign countries?  

Greece definitely has a strong positions in the historical and cultural tourism. It is also known for its delicious dishes. Wherever you go in Greece you can enjoy delicious food, gastronomy here is a tribute. If you come on holiday here you must try the seafood and local wines. Everything is beautiful, only curiosity is what drives the Greek tourist to travel.

Do you think that private and public sectors should cooperate more closely in the field of tourism and will it be in contradiction with the rules of the free market?

I believe that private and public sectors should align their actions to a greater extent so as to  achieve better results in the tourist sector as a whole. Moreover, the travel agencies should start to help more and become more loyal to each other, so as to create a healthy competitive environment. The Greek Tourist Association launched an initiative of acts to establish more affordable prices of the services aiming to make the Greek tourist agencies a single force on the international tourist market. The goal is to give greater importance to the quality of tourist services and, figuratively speaking, to become a strong chain, which can not be broken.

How do you see the development of tourism in the next five years, which many economists foresee will be particularly difficult for Greece?

True professionals that offer the most competitive and quality services will remain in the industry. I firmly believe that something good and better always comes from a crisis. I am sure that tourism in general will reach a higher level and this will have positive impact on the whole of Greece.

Tags: TourismEconomyMarkets
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