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2nd European Tourism Conference

The “2nd European Tourism Conference” entitled “Travel & Tourism: The Day After – Turning Crisis into Growth” organized by “Helexpo” and “Europress Media Group (EMG)” met with great success and significant outcomes for the future of the tourism product.

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, November 09, 2009

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“The evergreen topics, the participation of important speakers and attendants from all over the world and the excellent organization of the event, make European Tourism Conference a rich platform for debate and a great source of inspiration” noted the Managing Director of Europress Media Group (EMG) Mr. Christos Trikoukis.

A new model for European Tourism
The necessity for European Union (EU) to develop a new tourism model based on European multicultural principles and values was highlighted by the Vice-President of  the “European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)” Mrs. Irini Pari at her key-note speech during the luncheon of the conference. Mrs. Pari underlined the need to promote a cross-border tourism product in a European wide level, stating that “it is a mistake for the EU member countries to strictly retreat into their confines”. She also referred to the encouragement of any special form of tourism and the improvement that has to be applied to social tourism all over Europe.

Additionally, a great challenge, according to the EESC Vice-President, is the solution to the demographic problem. “Many immigrants work for the tourism sector and we need to guarantee decent working conditions and quality of life in order to make them a real part of the societies they live” she noted.

Improving branding and developing special forms of tourism
During her speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, the Greek Under-Secretary for Culture and Tourism Mrs. Angela Gerekou stated: “The national strategy for tourism we are preparing, targets through a gradual re-branding of our country, to the assertion of a powerful -in both revenue and culture- travel audience with better distribution circumstances into the wider multi-seasonal tourism year. We attempt to determine and develop a series of special and alternative forms of tourism such as Sea Tourism, Conventional Tourism, etc. in all aspects: Infrastructure, Incentives, Promotion, Employment Skills, Formation of activities.”

Ecotourism & Sustainability
“Diversity is very relevant at this time in the world’s history since besides using tourism to reap economic and social benefits, it establishes the fact that tourism should be a vehicle to drive global diversity and foster international co-operation and understanding while at the same time help to promote respect between different religious and cultural groups and build tolerance in our world. The tourist sector supports communities to be proud of their heritage and sell it to others.  In this respect tourism will bring the world together as one to share and enjoy our heritage in our diversity” said the Tourism Minister of Ghana Mrs. Juliana Azumah Mensah during her speech. “Our planet needs no ideological or political programmes for its safety. Earth needs our own contribution and our own effort. People must work and produce in absolute harmony with the environment” stated the President of “The International Ecotourism Society” Dr. Kelly Bricker. In addition, the Representative of Taiwan in Greece Mrs. Elizabeth Y.F. Chu, highlighted the high potential of Ecotourism in Greece as because of its geographical location the country attracts many rare species of birds, especially during spring and autumn. Mrs. Chu also referred to the rapid growth of Ecotourism in her country adding that Taiwan now provides the “know-how” to other developing countries to take advantage of their eco-systems and attract more visitors. Of great interest was also the proposal of the Greek economist Mr. Theodore Vlasopoulos who asked for a new policy for the Regions based on Economy, Ecology, Culture and Tourism. More specifically, he stated “Regions need to be in the center of a new policy strategy. The target of this policy has to be their strong emergence and their efficient development that must combines four basic elements: Economy, Ecology, Culture and Tourism.”

Communication Strategies & Crisis Management
“There is a new hotel brand where guests can enjoy their morning coffee at bed, served by an elegantly dressed butler, without any charge. That hotel is not a 5 star one. To be more specific that hotel has… zero stars. I am talking about the “Zero Star Hotels (Null Stern Hotels)” which is installed in a Swiss nuclear bunker and has been converted into an eco-luxury hotel”, said Mr. Daniel Charbonier Managing Director of "Minds in Motion SA" and co-founder of “null stern” brand. As he described “there is a great coverage of Media in 168 countries and 48 different languages all over the world. There have been monitored over 7.000.000 references in Google and several Facebook groups.” The people behind “null stern” – nominated for “Best Novelty of the Year 2009” and “Best Innovation in Limited Service Hotels 2009”- know that 78% of tourists rely on “peer evaluations” when choosing a hotel, and only a 14% relies on advertising.

That is why they emphasize on blogs and social networks and on the same time they restrain investment costs by using for example, uncommon buildings (nuclear bunker) or even bed frames from shut-down local luxury hotels. “Null Stern” crosses all age boundaries (from 7-77 years old) and there are “5R’s” that embody its values and its philosophy: Re-unite, Re-use, Reduce, Re-cycle, Re-think.
“It is estimated that by the years 2014-2015, the online sales of tourism products in the German market will rise by 34% while offline sales will shrink to 28% (of total sales) from 44% that are at the moment. The above data clearly indicate that travel agencies will lose market share in favour of Internet, faster than it was expected. However, if we look a few years back (2006/2007) we see that 27% of the total revenues (5,9 bn. euros) earned by travel agencies, were coming from travellers who use to make their online search but were ending in buying from agencies” underlined during her speech, Mrs. Kristina Keller member of the management board of 9 travel agencies. She added: “Under these difficult circumstances and the hard competition, travel agencies need to focus on 5 key factors: Location, Employees, Sales Control, Marketing, Quality (of products, services, advisory service).”
In the meantime, more credit by banks is needed for the tourism industry in Greece according to Dr. Nikolaos Georgikopoulos researcher in NYU Stern Business School and member of the OECD committee for Financial Markets. Speaking at the “2nd European Tourism Conference”, he presented statistical data from the period 2006-2009 showing that loans in Tourism are less than loans in Shipping and Constructions and he added that banks need to form custom products for tourism that fit to their very special needs.

Conferences as an incentive for City Breaks
In his speech, the Vice-President of HAPCO Mr. Panagiotis Podimatas described the current situation for tourism in Greece and focused on the advantages that conferences offer. He also referred to all criteria a destination needs to fulfil in order to organise successful events and he explained why Greece is still not a high demanding country for conferences. Mr. Podimatas underlined the necessity for professional congress organizers and the government to form Conference Culture and said “Organising a conference or an event is a Science. That is why it needs to be done by certified professionals.”

Special Forms of Tourism
“There is a significant potential for growth in many special forms of tourism, but unfortunately their value is still underestimated and there is no proper organisation and promotion.” This is the major outcome that came up from the second day of the “2nd European Tourism Conference” which was especially dedicated to “Yachting & Sea Tourism”, “Sports Tourism”, “Religious Tourism” and “Gastronomy”. More specifically and as far as “Religious Tourism” is concerned, Dr Robert Lanquar, a journalist and UNWTO expert, said that according to a recent World Tourism Organisation report “Religious Tourism” has been proved more resilient to the pressure of the global recession than leisure tourism that was mostly considered as a “luxury” for travellers. With more than 3 million tourists travelling annually for religious and pilgrimage reasons and with revenues that exceed the 15 bn. USD every year, that special form of tourism consists a significant part of global tourism.   

The conference was moderated by Mr. Athanasios Papandropoulos, journalist, Honorary President of the “Association of European Journalists (AEJ)”, President of the Greek section of AEJ and Editorial Consultant of “European Business Review” magazine.

The conference was organized by HELEXPO and EUROPRESS MEDIA GROUP (EMG) along with the 25th International Tourism Exhibition “PHILOXENIA” on 30-31 of October 2009 in Thessaloniki - Greece, under the aegis of the Greek Ministry of Tourism, with the support of the “Association of European Journalists”, “European Business Review” magazine and “Best of Greece” annual edition.

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