Southeast Asia a prime target by GNTO for new visitors to the country
Yannis Goulios is Deputy Secretary General of the Greek National Tourism Organisation. We started by asking him about the importance of the Southeast Asia region to Greece.
Southeast Asia is very important to Greece and it fits our strategy; the region has been a consistent part of our strategy for the last three years, as designed by our Ministry of Tourism and our Minister, Elena Kountoura. The strategy is to promote Greece as a 365-day destination.
Can you tell us more about this strategy?
Asians travel around the year, they are not like Northern Europeans that come for the sea and sun. Being at Asia fits our strategy and we were very happy to be there. We were at ITB Asia 2017 and we have done some small activities around Asia and we have started to see the first results from the investments. In 2018, we have seen more than a 100% increase in arrivals from China and India. This is from a low base, of course, which don’t compare to the number of international tourist we receive from Germany or the UK, but this is the future and it’s very important that Asians come to Greece in the off-season.
WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE GREECE AS A CITY BREAK DESTINATION
We would like to make people see we have many more ski resorts than other northern countries. We would also like to see Greece as a city break destination – we have already started a campaign which promotes Athens and Thessaloniki for long weekends.
The 365-day destination strategy has developed consistently. In 2018, we have had our best September ever. In 2017, we had 30 million international visitors, but in September 2018, we increased the number to 32 million. This is the result of an increase in off-season visitors, although September is still summer in Greece. Greece in September enables visitors to do whatever they do in the summer months, with less people and not so much heat.
Marketing wise, we advertised the off-season period and we now have a campaign going on encouraging people to “Visit Greece now”. We also ran a very successful campaign on Shazam, which highlighted “If it sounds like summer, it sounds like Greece”.
INTERNATIONAL ARRIVALS IN 2017 IN GREECE INCREASED 9.7%
How is the tourism sector performing in Greece?
Tourism is the most booming sector and we have seen consistent growth every year over the last three or four years. In 2017, international tourism increased by 6.7%, according to figures from the UNWTO, which is very impressive; international arrivals in 2017 in Greece increased 9.7%. Consistently, over the past three years, we have achieved growth of 30- 50% above the world tourism figure in Greece. This has been achieved by hard work and the right strategy. The industry in Greece with the highest investment is the tourism sector. We have seen the openings of new hotels, new hotel chains – it’s a booming sector and I expect this level of investment to continue.
The implementation of 350 investment plans in the last three years, concerning the creation or modernisation of four and ve-star hotels with a total capacity of 26,000 beds, has helped tourism grow further.
Tourism has really exceeded all expectations – we had a great summer in 2018. Tourism is a critical industry for developing Greece. The base of success is always a solid strategy – a second thing is to follow a strategy persistently. We have the same strategy, followed consistently. The strategy is not just resting on our sea and sun offering; we try to persuade the world that were the ideal destination for 365 days – the figures prove that we are succeeding. We need to make our cities and all destinations easily accessible.
THE CITIES OF GREECE ARE MORE VIBRANT DURING WINTER
What are Asians looking for when they come to Greece?
Asians come to Europe to see things, they don’t come to go to the beach. Some archaeological sites are more interesting to see in winter than in the summer, under the hot sun. The cities of Greece are more vibrant during winter – both Athens and Thessaloniki are lively in winter. In November in Thessaloniki there is a very big international film festival and there’s nigh life every night in Thessaloniki. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which takes place from November 1-11, has become one of the Southeast Europe’s primary showcases for the work of new and emerging filmmakers.
What segments of tourism are you promoting?
We try to promote as a priority our luxury offer because not many people know that we have so many golf resorts; we have a couple of beautiful and very nice gold resorts, so we try to promote luxury, but we also try to promote other types of tourism, not just experimental, such as trekking. In 2018, we have achieved healthy growth and the important thing is that ve-star hotels are growing and we see that the income from tourism is higher than the increase of arrivals – we are attracting more high-quality people.
Gastronomy is a very important reason to visit a country and we are happy to have one of the best cuisines in the world. The import thing is that food in Greece is not just nice tasting, but it’s also very healthy. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world and on one Greek island, Icaria, people live very long and everyone wonders why – one of the reasons is the food!
What will be your strategy for Southeast Asia after ITB Asia?
In 2018, we have been happy to have an embassy in Singapore for the first time. We are planning to do follow-up activities following ITB Asia, which will include a familiarisation trip for the most important buyers we have seen in Singapore. The show, in my opinion, concentrates more on buyers than on tour operators, which is a quite a different market. You don’t see so many buyers in European trade shows like you see at ITB Asia, which is interesting. We saw more buyers from India at ITB Asia than we did at the trade show in Mumbai.
We welcome visitors from across Southeast Asia all around the year, that’s why this region is so important to our strategy. That’s why we invest more and put more into this region.
For the first time we have a digital campaign running in India and Japan, and we have also launched out first co-advertising outside of Europe with tours and travel agency Cox & Kings in India.
What is your main focus for the region after ITB Asia?
As mentioned, my top priority is to organise a familiarisation trip for important buyers we met during the course of ITB Asia, and to, of course, follow up the interesting meetings. We had seven businesses from Greece on the booth with us at ITB Asia and they are happy with the number of enquiries they have received. They have done good business, done good deals and they are happy. They have all asked to come back to ITB Asia again next year; so, we’ll be back next year, for sure.
What’s next for tourism in Greece?
We have to develop our next four-year plan and we will complete this in December, it is very important to have a clear strategy and a clear path to follow.
Athens has pro ted much more than the rest of the country from this momentum, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s figures for the first eight months of 2018. Athens had a 20% increase in arrivals, against an increase of 14% for the country.
Key target for next plan to increase the quality of our guests. We have seen from India and China – and they spend more than tourists from other parts of the world.
There are many things to do, although I feel we have already created momentum – we have passed the critical point. I strongly believe that the economy is improving and the next ve years will be even greater for Greece.
Photo: Yannis Goulios, Deputy Secretary General, Greek National Tourism Organisation