ECONOMY

Conference confidence

The enhanced standing attained by Greece’s congress tourism in the global market holds out excellent prospects for that tourism sector, especially in view of the operation of the Athens International Conference Center within the next two years. Based on data made available by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Greece in 2006 climbed to 19th position (compared to 22nd in 2005) in terms of the number of events hosted in the country. As many as 111 conferences and related events were held in Greece in 2006. With regard to the number of attendants, Greece was ranked 15th, with 96,120 conference participants in 2006, compared to 78,347 in the previous year. This represents an increase of 18 percent in the number of conferences and nearly 22.5 percent in the number of participants. According to the latest annual ICCA data (June 2007), the total number of events held around the globe in 2006 stood at 5,838, with participants numbering 4 million people. The global leaders in this specific market are the US and Germany, with the American market projected to remain a strong player in years to come, enjoying considerable benefits from such growth in congress and business tourism. The United Kingdom took third place in 2006, followed by France (with both nations climbing one position compared to 2005 data) and Spain. Italy also saw itself move up one place in 2006, while the ICCA list included for the first time a Latin American state, Brazil, in seventh place. As for as the most popular cities hosting the highest number of conventions, the global leader remains Vienna, followed by Paris, moving up two positions year-on-year. New entrants in the rankings included Prague, Copenhagen and Lisbon, which had the satisfaction of seeing themselves featured in the list’s top 10. Although the US and Germany are far ahead of other countries in the field of congress organization, there is an increasing number of emerging tourism markets moving up the ladder. China, Croatia, Russia, Singapore and Dubai are all claiming a share in the steadily growing global congress market. Congress and business tourism in China is growing at a rapid pace, with a number of major infrastructure investment programs under way. Chinese officials have announced that their country will have as many as 120 conference and exhibition centers meeting strict international standards by the year 2020. China and India are the two most rapidly developing nations in terms of outgoing business tourism. India in particular, with a population of over 1.1 billion and a growth rate of 8.0 percent, is projected to act as a significant feeder of the international congress industry and outgoing tourism in the next few years. Anastasia Vatsika, managing director of professional congress organizer AC&C International, believes that Greece should aim at getting into the global convention market’s top 10. In April 2007, AC&C, following a six-month due diligence procedure, managed to become a full member of the globally leading and quite unique International Conference Network (INCON). The INCON network comprises just 12 companies from around the world, bringing together the largest conference organizers in the global market. On the basis of long-term contracts with various bodies and agencies, INCON currently manages some of the world’s most important events. It follows that the way the network operates ensures that Greece will attract a large number of INCON-managed events, considering that its members’ home countries are given preferential status. Having grown steadily since its establishment in 1990, the best year for INCON was 2006, when the network organized 653 events, involving more than 550,000 participants and 1.25 million overnight stays in local accommodation markets. In other words, in that year INCON members organized one in 10 events held globally.