On an unusually warm October day, the streets and bars in the heart of the Athens’ city centre are again full of relaxed locals, who were not long ago still dealing with a survival and the fatal destiny of Europe during the recent economic crisis. At some point, it seemed as if there was no ending to the disasters in the modern Greek history, but the residents have managed time and time again to fight them back; the same way as this past summer when they fought back one of the worst fires in the history of the city.
The economic crisis has deeply marked the city. But the Mediterranean spirit, that even dramatic events can’t take of its course, remained. This year, while walking through the streets in the amazing city of many faces, you can yet again feel the city’s optimism signed with great plans for the future. The city of Athens will never become an experiential park for tourists, but rather, it will remain alive, creative, dynamic and resistant city incredibly attractive for event planners.
The optimism has slipped into the Greek meetings industry as well. During the worst crisis, the innovative project TTA Athens (Travel Trade Athens) was born and has this year taken place for the sixth time already. This is also proof of the resilience and professional energy of our Greek colleagues. The crisis has furtherly connected the key partners and, unless much more rationally regulated societies like Vienna are in question, we can rarely meet such a well-established partnership. The partnership in Athens consists of Athens Convention Bureau, Tourism of the region of Attica, Aegean Airlines, Athens Development and Destination Agency in Athens Airport.
After what we have seen and heard, particularly if following the words of the key stakeholders of the meetings industry, the city of Athens is ready for a new congress spring. This has been confirmed by the high ranking on the ICCA scale for 2018 and by other numerous international awards. As the mayor of Athens, Georgis Kaminis, said, the meetings industry presents the key part of the city’s strategic revival based in four points: intensive marketing of Greece, meetings tourism, culture, and urban development. Due to the combination of effects, 2017 saw the number of tourists doubled to 5 million, while this year the results are expected to be even better and to get closer to the results preceding the economic crisis. The growing tourism has also been impacted by the events like TTA Athens and by the fresh marketing campaign which is running under the slogan “Athens, a sustainable, open and respected city.”
According to Alexis Galinos, director of the Athens CVB, the TTA Athens is a combination of workshop and fam trip. This year’s event witnessed a record participation including 107 hosted buyers and 100 congress providers from the city of Athens and its vicinity. In the frame of the workshop, there were more than 2000 meetings held. The organizer also guaranteed a minimum of 14 meetings, while the best ones concluded well over 30 meetings.
The trade show’s model differs from other similar events by the format that provides buyers with their marked tables around which the providers circle. This results in a pleasant atmosphere resembling a Mediterranean marketplace. Fam trips are an important part of the event; this year there were seven which were, according to the needs of the participants, designed as a gastronomic, nautical, and cultural tour, while two fam trips were exclusively intended for the meeting planners.
It has been known that Greeks are amazing hosts, and this year they have once again confirmed their proverbial hospitality, particularly during the social evenings that enabled a quality networking between the hosted buyers and exhibitors. A special story is Hotel Grande Bretagne where the event was held. It is not just a hotel, but it is rather a real institution that managed to beautifully round up the whole story and the experience of the participants with the service level and with the view of the Acropolis.
TTA Athens is a model of the event combining two roles: the usual basic business dimension, and the – even more important – role of connecting the city’s meetings industry. The concrete results of the project can already be measured today, while the long-term legacy will only be seen in a few years; certainly, however, the effects for the meetings industry will be positive. The model itself will undoubtedly be copied by destinations in Europe and in the World.
Let’s conclude with the mayor’s note that this beautiful city has quickly recovered after the crisis also thanks to the meetings industry and the events like TTA Athens.