ECONOMY

Attracting conferences

Greece needs to create a mechanism on the national level to help promote it as a conference tourism destination and attract conferences, since the existing infrastructures of this country are in no way inferior to those of other conference destinations, said the president and CEO of Heliotopos Inc, Costas Constantinidis, in an interview with Kathimerini. «As a conference tourism location, Greece has all the comparative advantages to claim a place in the world’s top 10 destinations, from the 23rd position it holds today,» argued Constantinidis, an economist who has been professionally involved with tourism since 1978. The Heliotopos group organizes conferences and other events while also offering consultancy services on issues of attracting conference tourism and constructing conference centers. Additionally, it offers design and support services for websites and other applications on the Internet. In Santorini it owns a local-architecture hotel complex, which the Greek National Tourism Organization has classified as traditional, along with a travel agency specializing in incentives tourism and wedding organization. Constantinidis suggested that there are at least 60 countries which compete intensively for conference tourism around the world, in order to reap the undisputed benefits each event brings to the host country, and Greece needs to make the most of it. «The sunshine and good weather during the best part of the year, the sense of security every foreigner has when visiting Greece – which is becoming all the more important – and our rich cultural heritage are significant comparative advantages,» stressed Constantinidis, adding that «we must also use our geographical location, which is a junction of the Western with the Eastern world, and the very good relations we have with the Arab world and the other nations in the region.» The Heliotopos president also cautioned that attracting international conferences requires much research and cultivation of contacts with the people who decide on future event locations. «It also requires an organized, honest and market-focused tourism promotion, always bearing in mind that this is a long process without immediately obvious results,» Constantinidis observed. He added that a national promotion mechanism must be a state initiative, supported by the private sector both morally and financially. Despite some exceptions, such as spaces branded «conference rooms» having been built for other purposes, the Greek market generally has sufficient conference spaces, audiovisual means and catering support which Constantinidis qualified as «very good.» However, he said, «the existing transport infrastructure and particularly air connections do not favor the development of conference tourism in all areas with conference installations. Thus, it is natural for Athens to have the lion’s share of the international conferences organized in Greece.» Heliotopos last year organized the «International Conference on Conferences» and will repeat it early next year. «This focuses on issues concerning the organization of international conferences and approaches the issue mainly from the scientific side,» explained Constantinidis. «Our scheduling for now covers the next three years, but we will soon be able to announce conferences in a five-year horizon,» he promised.