The seemingly endless euro zone economic crisis has cast a blanket of grey cloud over all of Europe with its economic uncertainty, austerity measures being meted out and the political instabilities that have been fomented. This has been felt much more in the periphery than the core EU countries, and nowhere more so than in Greece.

Fortunately, the sun has been breaking through these grey clouds over Thessaloniki, as Philoxenia, organised by HELEXPO in partnership with Artion Conferences & Events, warms up the city from the 22-25 November with its 28th outing, once again showcasing the very best sides of Greece, as well as the Balkans and South East Europe, to the international community.

Nearing its thirtieth birthday on the circuit, this year’s event has seen Philoxenia turn its gaze towards new markets that, with the numbers of economically mobile citizens rapidly increasing as they continue to develop, will undoubtedly be curious to know more about the diverse cultural and leisure offer that has made Greece the world famous tourist destination that it is today. Alongside the staples of Germany, Britain and France, this year there are a number of buyers and press in attendance from these emerging – and potentially vast – markets of Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. In what have been seen in the media as testing times for the country, such interest in the event is a clear signal that Greece continues to be a prime target for international tourism.

There have also been some new conference programme highlights for this year’s show, including a series of conferences on ‘cultural and religious tourism’, beginning to tap the tourism potential of the country’s network of breathtaking monasteries. This focus on the ‘old’ of Greek tourism is nicely balanced with a nod to the new, the programme also offering sessions on new technologies and e-marketing in the tourism industry, designed to give delegates know-how in getting their products and services out to the widest possible audience and in the most effective way possible.

And to cap off this focus on new markets and new directions with the conference programme, the event has also managed to attract some high-profile exhibitors to its 2012 showing, including TUI Travel, Aurora Travel-Tours and, in what is quite a coup, European football’s governing body UEFA!

All of which makes this year’s event something to look forward to within the South East Europe region, especially for the 20,000 visitors it is anticipated will cross the threshold of the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre over its four days. The show will particularly benefit from the partnership of Artion Conferences & Events, who have made a recent habit of scoring major successes. Having scooped two major events for Athens – the 37th World Association of Chefs Societies Congress for 2016 and the 16th European Congress of Neurosurgery, also for 2016 – and making the four finalists for ICCA’s Best Marketing Award 2012, they continue to elevate Philoxenia by bringing their wealth of high-end PCO experience.

Whilst uncertainty in matters economic and political may be the prevalent mood across the euro zone, Philoxenia continues to showcase the certainties of the tourism industry that have made Greece and the South East Europe region such a desirable destination. And it is worth remembering just what Philoxenia means – ‘a welcome for the stranger’. The word has existed for millennia in Greek. With Philoxenia looking forwards and upwards, it will certainly exist for a long time yet.


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A long-time meetings industry addict, Gorazd is the Founder and owner of marketing and event agency Toleranca Marketing. He has many years of experience in planning, preparing and carrying out large international meetings and exhibitions. As the founder of the "Power to the Meetings" methodology, he still firmly believes in the power of live events and human to human communication. He is also the author of numerous articles and editor-in-chief of the meetings industry magazine Kongres Magazine.