This year’s annual conference of the Greek Tourism Confederation highlighted the need to exploit new technologies for upgrading the Greek tourism product as well as devise integrated strategies for shaping the image of destinations.
“Tourism in Transition: #someTHINKdifferent,” was attended by more than 300 people from the inner core and related industries of tourism; it was hosted at the Athens Hilton in cooperation with the specialised consultancy firm in the field of visitor economy & destination marketing TOPOSOPHY and “weareJARVIS,” the content studio of the organisation for innovation and digital transformation “Found.ation“.
The new format of the conference included on the main stage, inter alia, keynotes, fireside chats and panels of prominent speakers on issues pertaining to the destination management and digital skills while, on the second stage, three interactive masterclasses were held.
In his opening speech, the President of SETE, Yiannis Retsos, spoke of the challenges which Greek tourism will have to address through the use of digital technologies to improve its competitiveness in the international economic environment. At the same time, he highlighted the importance of monitoring best international practices in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
Yiannis Retsos stressed that our country is in the category of those who lag behind with regard to digital technology in Europe, highlighting the need for a structured action plan which, within a very short period of time, will lead to the implementation of an overall digital strategy. Wrapping up his welcome speech, SETE’s President extended an invitation to young people with an appetite for work and brilliant minds to invest their knowledge and drive in the tourism sector.
For her part, Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura presented key tourism policies for Greek tourism’s digital transition. She stressed that, through innovative practices, we intend to ensure high rates of growth in tourism in the coming years, “in a sustainable and responsible manner, which represents the core of our strategy; we also aim at expanding use of technology in the management of the needs of each destination “for the benefit not only of visitors, but also of the residents and local societies”.
Paul Papadimitriou, founder of Intelligencr, researcher in innovation and specialist in strategies for the future, referred, inter alia, to the need for diversification of destinations and promotion of information which will highlight their uniqueness. He also spoke of the tourism potential of the Asian market as well as the possibilities for tourists to utilise technology at low cost to cover their travel needs.
Martin Boisen, co-founder and Vice Chairman of the International Place Branding Association referred, inter alia, to the problems created for destinations by phenomena of hyper-tourism, noting the need for residents and businesses to have a common vision for the development of the area in order to avoid phenomena of ”commoditisation”.
Signe Jungersted, Director of Development of Copenhagen, the official agency for destination management and promotion in the metropolitan area of Denmark’s capital, dwelled on a strategy followed by Copenhagen in order to meet the needs resulting from the increase in tourist traffic. As she emphasized, particular importance in the context of decision-making is placed on the opinion of residents. In this way, the aim is to mitigate the impact of strongly increased tourist activity. To put things into perspective, by the year 2022, over 8,200 new rooms will be created in tourist accommodation establishments in the city.
Geerte Udo, Director of marketing strategy at Amsterdam Marketing since 2013, responsible for the internationally acclaimed campaign “I Amsterdam,” described the steps taken by the agency over the last 15 years to showcase, promote, and manage Amsterdam as a destination. As she stated, 5 years ago, when the city had reached high numbers of tourist arrivals, efforts were focused on management of the destination, as well as targeted actions such as attracting businesses that would like to establish their headquarters in Amsterdam.
David Bizer, founder and CEO of Talent Fountain, a consulting firm which focuses on acquiring talent, quoted examples of human resources management. More specifically, he mentioned ways of retaining staff through the implementation of education and training programs, while delving into the three essential components for creating a successful corporate culture which include decision-making, behaviour and communication.
Co-founder and President of Nannuka, Lela Dritsa, CEO of Exclusiv, Babis Kourtzis, founder of Welcome Alexandros Trimis, and Αgamemnon Papazoglou, co-founder of MyJobNow took the floor. The four speakers, moderated by Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, co-founder and partner at the technology investment group Velocity.Partners, discussed the development of start-ups and the implementation of new business concepts in the tourism sector. In his remarks, Dimitris Kalavros – Gousiou noted that, from today’s debate, we must keep the thought that technology developed in Greece today can provide real solutions and new opportunities in the field of tourism. This is real digital transformation.
Oana Damian, principal of the Damazo Group, with significant past experience in the airline industry, noted that airports constitute the first point of contact as well as the visitor’s last impression and should highlight the local character of each destination by taking advantage of local brands in order for them to meet today’s travellers’ desire to explore.During the conference’s third and final panel on the “Little things that at the end of the day make a difference,” moderated by Peter Jordan, Head of Insights at TOPOSOPHY, through inspirational remarks, Kash Bhattacharya, founder of Budget Traveller, and Valerie Pretscher, Director of Development at Zoku, cited practical and economic ways which can set apart products and services in tourist accommodation establishments, thus wowing guests. At this point, Greek cuisine was discussed, which can serve as a point of reference, as it is gaining ground in the trend of tourists who seek life experiences. This was followed by Ian MacDonald, EMEA Content Director at Quartz, who pointed out that the creators of communications and marketing must ensure that the visitor hears the “story” behind products, services, and destinations. Be it on social networking media or a web page, the key is to create content that speaks of consumers’ needs.George Achillias, an expert on strategy and innovation for companies, spoke about how affordable, accessible, and simple technology is in today’s world. In periods where decisions are made either under pressure or following long and extensive research. It is now more critical than ever to think two steps ahead rather than simply getting lost in practical details and the deliverable; and this requires courage, a plan, and a strategy in order to be achieved.
In addition to the conference’s main program, the participants had the opportunity to attend three masterclasses. During these, Peter Jordan spoke of modern practices in destination management, David Bizer presented tangible ideas and tools for attracting and retaining human resources which can directly be applied to businesses, while Christos Αndreikos, Partner – Digital Transformtion Services of Found.ation and Michalis Georgakopoulos of Satori Analytics discussed ready to use innovation and data utilisation strategies.
The conference ended with an interactive debate between Paul Papadimitriou and Yiannis Retsos. In reply to a related question by the moderator, Yiannis Retsos spoke about the changes made to the Conference in order to emulate international trends, as well as the modern manner of presenting important issues for the tourism sector, taking into account the international nature of the sector which is in transition. He specifically insisted on the changes that must be made by the business community in order for it to remain competitive, as well as the initiatives that the country must undertake to highlight the comparative advantages of the Greek tourism product. In addition, he focused on issues related to the culture that must be cultivated for continuous and constant training of human resources, stressing that tourism is no longer limited to only providing seasonal work.
SETE’s President pointed out that to make the above objectives possible, synergies must be developed to overcome stereotypes and prejudices and to set up a strategic plan which all institutions involved will serve to the extent that corresponds to each. In conclusion, Yiannis Retsos said, “We must have the courage to grapple with the difficult issues, even if we disagree. There is no need for us to bury our heads in the sand and rest on our laurels.”