Article by Robert Cotter
Celebrating its second birthday in April 2014, Travel Trade Athens (TTA) pulled out all the stops to make sure the follow-up outing to its inaugural event was twice as nice. Over four days of pre-show tours, b2b meetings, social events and a jaw-dropping variety of post-show tours showcasing the best of what Athens has to offer by way of history, culture, gastronomy and leisure, the near 200 local suppliers and 100 hosted buyers from more than 20 countries got to see and experience the many faces of one of Europe’s oldest capital cities as well as participate in more than 2,000 business-generating meetings.
“TTA Athens is one of the best ways to introduce Athens to professionals from all over the world and at the same time to let them experience what Athens has to offer to all categories of visitors and MICE organisers,” said George Angelis, Press and Media Manager for the City of Athens Development and Destination Management Agency. “MICE is a key market sector for Athens as a destination and a central axis of the city’s strategy towards recovery and growth, which is why we have a programme specifically designed for the needs and expectations of MICE representatives. Our aim is to strengthen this sector for the events to come.”
The specific programme for MICE reps took in a number of site visits to the city’s conference and exhibition venues, including the Metropolitan Expo near the International Airport, the Onassis Cultural Centre, the Athenaeum Intercontinental with its stunning ballroom with 1,500 capacity and 40 meeting rooms, and the historical and captivating Zappeion conference centre. These visits were broken up by whistle-stop sessions at some of the city’s more interesting corners, such as the Digital Planetarium of the Eugenides Foundation, the Vorres Museum with its varied artwork collection, and the city’s post-industrial area of Gazi with its City of Athens Technopolis. To complement these many high-end facilities a number of additional venues to broaden the city’s portfolio are scheduled for completion in the coming years.
“A number of new facilities that are in the pipeline will boost the city’s existing MICE infrastructure and help profile the destination,” said Angelis. “Next month we are expecting the opening of the new National Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be another new meeting venue. The new Niarhos Foundation Centre of Culture is expected to open in early 2016, which will include meeting facilities. Finally there is the old airport’s redevelopment plans, a 500-hectare site that will be the biggest urban development investment plan in Euorpe, with works expected to begin by the end of the year. It will also include meeting and cultural facilities.”
The arrival of these new facilities will be serviced by a number of new hotels coming to the Athens landscape, as well as by the growth of Aegean Airlines, Europe’s best regional airline for 2013, who after the acquisition of Olympic Airways will be able to accelerate their expansion and increase destinations and route frequency to and from the city.
“There have been two hotel re-openings in the city centre, of the King George (a Luxury Collection Hotel) at Syntagma Square that opened last year after a complete renovation and the Grecotel Pallas Athena, near Omonoia Square,” noted Angelis. “Last month, probably the best hotel property in all of Greece, the world-famous Astir Palace Vouliagmeni complex, was sold after an international tender. The new owners are talking about creating a 7* service resort within the next couple of years.”
With all of these initiatives Athens – and according to recent news reports, the Greek economy too – is moving in a positive direction and with a strong tailwind. This has best been borne out by securing events for the city for the coming years.
“The most important and best [event secured] for the city is the TBEX Europe 2014 event, which will take place in October and for which ACB won the bid earlier this year,” said Angelis.“It is the annual meeting of travel bloggers, writers and content creators from all over the world, with more than 1,000 expected to attend. It can really boost the city’s imag e and exposure.”
Kongres looks forward to TTA 2015 and to what new initiatives this ancient capital will be showcasing to further boost its modern image and exposure.