Alexis Galinos is a development economist and in economic development matters has been an advisor to the Municipality of Athens since 2003. He has led the establishment of a municipal agency whose objective is the management and implementation of tourism and economic development in Athens, and he served as the organisation’s first Director-General from 2005 to 2007. Since 2011, he has been operating as the General Manager of the Athens Development and Visitors Bureau, and as the Managing Director of the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency.

Q: After 6 years, what can you say is the legacy of TTA Athens?

The legacy is a success story of the city in trying to facilitate the local offer to the international demand. Success does not happen in a day. We have built that over time, we got better every year, we learned from our work how to get better and better.

Q: What I found really impressive was the partnership which was also obvious during the press conference. How did you manage to build this collaboration?

The collaboration was a priority for us since day one. From the perspective of the city, this collaboration had to do everything regarding every policy issue, whether it’s the destination, local development in general, social cohesion, innovation, etc. We understand the obvious – that the know-how and the resources are limited for everyone. So if you can find some common platform for win-win, then everybody has an incentive to collaborate, given that we overcome the thinking that we own whatever we are collaborating on. To the stakeholders we explain that this is kind of a public-private partnership.

Megaron, Athens

Q: Definitely the crisis is over. We can see that on the streets all around us. But can you illustrate that with some figures and facts?

The crisis has not completely passed us yet, but we see some positive indicators. We see that the Central Bank continues to ease the capital control. From the 1st of October, they allow the citizens unlimited withdrawals. So, the country believes that the bank is solid, and the trust is being re-established. We see unemployment decreasing rapidly. However, we are still dealing with structural economic problems, hence we see the brain drain, and so on. The GDP grows slowly, the country has GDB surpluses, etc. Thus, we need to work now on creating an environment that would be friendly to the private sector.

Q: How does the idea of sustainable tourism fit into your marketing plans and ideas?

I think that today Athens has an important challenge which is also an opportunity. We had been talking to our major source markets and checking with individual travellers, and Athens is pretty low on the bucket list of potential visitors, because they think they will not find the urban city life, the locals, the events and so on in Athens. The thing is that Athens has all of this. The only problem is, that we don’t market it properly. Luckily, the stakeholders understand we all need to co-invest in this effort.

Q: What do you think in terms of marketing … Is it better to bring people to Athens (because seeing is believing) or is it better to attend IMEX, IBTM and similar trade shows?

I think that the added value of bringing people here is the greatest. However, going to IMEX or IBTM is much cheaper for us. So it is necessary to do both. Therefore, we are visiting the trade shows, and we do the road shows annually; all with the aim to build new lasting relationships.

Photo: Pixabay

Q: If I asked you directly ‘why should the meeting planner choose Athens?’, what would your answer be?

Because Athens is a real city that is a truly lively place full of happenings. What I mean by real city is that Athens is not a recreational park for adults as many cities are evolving into. We are not an amusement park, and in the future we don’t intend to develop in one. This is a city that does not pretend, it is a city that lives and exists, and that is what makes Athens right now an interesting destination. Athens still offers a local experience that is unique for this city.

Q: You have quite a strong creative scene on all levels, from arts to startups etc. Does it help?

Yes, it is making the city more interesting, also in terms of conventions. There are a lot of young Europeans moving to Athens, looking for a good, interesting city, also to have a good time, and Athens is the city that has all of that. And also, the city is much cheaper to live in comparing to other European capitals.

Q: What is your favorite place in Athens?

Athens is surrounded by hills, and I really like to walk up these hills for spectacular views, to get some peace and quiet in the forests.

Q: If the BMW would ask you for a suggestion for a brand-new BMW car launch, what would you suggest?

I would suggest, for instance, the Riviera. If you drive down to Cape Sounion, which is another famous ancient spot, that road’s scenery there is amazing, very photogenic with breathtaking views.

The international market is again seeing Athens as an opportunity

Q: Your general feeling about the state of the industry and about the competition … You are now back on the map, so what do you see as a challenge now?

The private sector seems to be investing in the destination, airlines are opening up at the airport, international market is again seeing Athens as an opportunity. Which is a good thing, but here is a thing with the sharing economy, and other sharing platforms, and this is completely unregulated. When the big international investors are growing massively, in order for a destination to not become an amusement park, we have to be careful in preserving the local experience. This is an important challenge.

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