Q: What are Thessaloniki’s strengths as a meetings destination?
Thessaloniki is a city with a continuous history of 2.300 years, with traces and monuments of the Roman, early Christian, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Jewish heritage, with 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites, a 5km long waterfront with great views to Mount Olympus for recreation and sports, lively atmosphere and unique gastronomy. It is a compact and walkable city, a multicultural centre in a privileged geographical position. Private investment in major infrastructure, the Thessaloniki Airport, and the Thessaloniki Port, will show results by 2020, allowing the city to connect directly with more destinations, receive larger numbers of visitors and offer upgraded services. High professionalism in meetings organization, attractive venues, high standards hotels and a large number of relevant to the industry services, add value to the city’s charming profile. Thessaloniki has succeeded in positioning itself among the top 100 meetings destinations worldwide, as an upcoming destination presenting new prospects in the meetings industry.
Q: Which markets and countries are you targeting with your marketing?
Thessaloniki Convention Bureau began operating in 2014 and Thessaloniki has been in the process of strengthening its touristic identity only the last decade. We are working closely with the academic community and the most active business sectors of the city to form together with a strategy targeting the audiences they intend to attract. Thessaloniki is home of four major universities with a highly appreciated academic community and 150.00 students, is a growing innovation hub, the center of outstanding design and emerging business ventures. We are strengthening the ties with the countries of Southeastern Europe, our closest neighbours, as well as, within the ICCA Med Chapter to elaborate our marketing strategy in the most suitable environment.
Q: What large events are coming to the city in the near future?
Thessaloniki has proven its capability of hosting large events and we aspire to continue attracting large meetings in the years ahead. August 2019 we hosted the 29th Annual Conference of the European Society Early Childhood Education Research Association – EECERA – and October 2019 the Eastern European Regional Veterinary Conference – EERVC. In 2020 we are the host city of the 39th Annual Congress of the European Society of Regional Anesthesia – ESRA and Europride 2020, a pan-European international LGBTI event.
Q: What do you see as crucial marketing elements to lure meeting planners?
Every destination is unique. The first step is to create a brand for our city and raise awareness so that the market we are targeting knows about us. The catch is to stand out from the crowd and present to the meeting planners what they don’t already know about our destination and why they should pick us instead of all the others. Building strong relationships and human connections are also crucial as people seek for loyalty in order to form professional partnerships and create networks. Promoting the city with multiple means should be high on the marketing elements list, not only with personal interactions but also with digital marketing tools. Creativity matters and we should reach different audiences with different ways and tailor their needs into our marketing strategy.
Q: In what way can TCB help the meetings industry?
Thessaloniki Convention Bureau has the expertise and the professional network to identify meetings business opportunities and promote Thessaloniki as an ideal meetings destination. We connect the local stakeholders with meeting planners from Greece and abroad taking the role of an intermediary link, crucial for the development of strong partnerships. TCB counts over 50 members, leading partners of the events and conventions industry, with high professionalism offering excellent services and infrastructure and we are here to support and promote them to meeting planners worldwide.
Q: What advice would you give to younger colleagues getting into the business right now?
I would say they are lucky as this is definitely the proper time for entering the meetings industry business in Thessaloniki. At the same time, this is also a very challenging period for meetings industry worldwide, as things move on real fast and they will have to struggle in a rapidly changing, yet most interesting environment. One should not be afraid of stating fresh ideas and also give a little bit of oneself into the job so that the result has substance and character.