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GREECE – Greeks say meetings and events business is down, but not dead

Greek organisers believe that the world’s media has treated its recent disturbances and economic troubles in an over-exaggerated manner, despite meetings and events business being down over the past 18 months.
According to those working in the industry, the drop is not as large as many believe it to be, although they also thought that the crisis would likely continue for some time.

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Speaking at IMEX, George Angelis (image), director of the Athens Convention Bureau, said that 2011’s incoming tourism numbers were down approximately 7%, while meetings and events certainly took a hit during the height of the disturbances. He said: “We’re seeing renewed interest for 2014 and beyond, and overall, organisers are not crossing Athens off their lists completely. We just wish news agencies would not continually use file images of the riots every time Athens is mentioned. In fact, demonstrations this year are down 60% on 2011.”

Marlen Palikaraki, sales and marketing manager for Piraeus-based destination-management company Helden, said she thought the drop in business to be about 20% since the unrest began: “What is important now is to have stability, and until that happens, I do not expect to see much movement in the market.”

Palikaraki recently arranged travel for a group of 180 Germans in the centre of Athens. She explained: “We were having coffee very close to where the disturbances had taken place, and all was perfectly fine. Initially, the group was anxious, but that soon changed. Athens and Greece has a wealth of inspiring, unique places. Greeks are welcoming, and that is the message we need to get out there.”

No one representing Greece could say what the likely effect would be of Greece potentially leaving the European Union and/or reintroducing the drachma at the expense of the Euro. Angelis commented: “If any changes are done in a smooth, controlled manner, it may not be the disaster everyone predicts.”

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Angelis is concerned though, with the news of airlines reducing or cancelling routes into the country. He said: “Those airlines doing this such as Delta, Singapore and Thai represent losses that lend gravity to the problem. Singapore, for example, has flown to Greece for almost 40 years, but other airlines will come in. They might not have the big brand names of these carriers, and that is a problem, one of perception. Athens International Airport also is regarded as an expensive airport, so we are urging the government to address this.”