SUBVENTIONS FOR CONFERENCES IN NEW EUROPE

ABOUT ALEXIS

Alexis Galinos holds the position of CEO of Athens Development & Destination Management Agency (ADDMA), of which the Athens CVB is a division. He is a development economist and has worked as an external consultant for the World Bank, served as Special Secretary and Advisor to the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has worked for the Municipality of Athens in economic development matters since 2003.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, an MSc in European Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA in Economics from Bates College.

Q: Does your city have any strategic subvention plan for conferences?

As Greece is still in a harsh economic and financial environment and these kinds of resources are limited, we follow a per-case policy that is subject to several criteria. We also try to offer solutions based on close cooperation with all of the city’s main stakeholders, the private sector and the central government institutions. By creating synergies and planning combined actions, we look to maximize results and boost the results of our joint efforts to make Athens more attractive for organisers, in terms of costs and ROI.

Q: What kind of subventions does your city offer and for what kinds of events?

The ACVB aims at securing major international conferences and meetings. We are constantly looking for new events and are currently bidding – in cooperation with the ACVB’s members – for numerous prestigious events taking place in our region in the next few years. As aforementioned, we follow a per-case policy, and taking into account the increased pressure to cut costs, we try to offer effective solutions and alternative options to organisers, according to the needs and requirements of each conference. Finally, we are always eager to help with site inspections by covering part of the cost.

Q: What is the most important aspect when applying for subventions?

We definitely take into consideration factors e.g. the size of the conference and its significance in its respective field. We also give priority to conferences that are held during low season months for the destination, in an effort to extend tourist seasonality and support the local economy. Also of great interest to us are conferences in areas that are aligned with the city’s strategy, such as the creative economy, technology, sports, culture etc.

Q: Does your city subvention offer include any free travel or reduced local transportation to and within the city, any venue for free, free reception, free brochure or marketing?

As I said, we work closely with the city’s main stakeholders and the Transport of Athens Organisation is one of our strategic partners in our effort to establish Athens as an attractive conference destination. Athens boasts a state-of-the-art public transport network that is quite inexpensive compared to other cities and capitals; having said that, discounts are offered when bulk tickets are purchased at once. There is also a package of offerings for event organisers, such as free maps and city guides for the delegates, use of our visitors info point at the airport as a welcome desk for congresses, and dissemination of information about the events via our ACVB tools and channels. Subject to this criteria we are always open to exploring more ways to assist organisers and with our members cooperation are willing to extend our support by offering a gala dinner venue or a tour. In our experience, we should not underestimate the importance of the institutional support that a CVB can offer, something that is always welcome and appreciated by the organisers.

Q: Are subventions the latest big thing in the meeting industry or should they be considered as the very last option for a destination to win an association meeting?

According to latest research, subventions play a somewhat important role in the decision-making process when it comes to associations choosing the next host destinations for their congresses. However, in my experience other factors are far more decisive in calculating the success of a conference. These factors have to do with the capacity of a destination to host the event, ease of access, safety, professionalism, or the value for money offer of the destination as a whole. Moreover, a strong local community and local experience can play an important role and offer additional value to the scientific merits and organisational success of a congress. Coupled with the destination’s attractiveness this can contribute both to the business development and to membership growth, main goals for an association.

Q: Tell us something about your latest success story and subvention from your city?

In the past few years, the city has hosted numerous world-class events and an assortment of conventions, conferences and corporate meetings. The international rankings reflect the city’s upward mobility as a business destination. In 2014, the city climbed 20 places in the ICCA ranking, one of the best city destination performances in the international meetings market. As per the 2015 & 2016 reports, Athens is now one of the 25 most important conference destinations in the world. For sure, there are several parameters that factor into this success, yet I feel that subventions do not represent one of the most decisive parameters. In my experience, what’s important to organisers overall is to feel that the CVBs they interact with understand their needs and are eager to offer advice and assistance every step of the way.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Take on the establishment of the first municipal agency – named OTOAA at the time – for the management and implementation of tourism and economic development of the city of Athens; the predecessor of ADDMA. In 2005 there was no prior institutional structure to build on, so it took a lot of time, personal commitment and stamina to get it off the ground, set out a vision, get on board the right mix of people and roll out a plan of action that would be viable and would grow into the robust organisation that we have today.

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