Big prospects for conference tourism

Conference tourism, one of the best branches worldwide for attracting foreign currency, has huge growth potential in Greece, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) suggests. The association’s data show that Greece can rise to 15th position internationally in hosting top conferences, obtaining a 2.1 percent share of the global conference market by 2017. Already in the last decade there has been a major increase in the number of visitors through conference tourism. In 2005 a total of 78,347 delegate-visitors were hosted in Greece, effectively quadrupling in just 10 years. In 1996 the corresponding figure did not exceed 18,500. One of the branch’s greatest advantages is that conferences are held throughout the year, while the peak months are June and September along with the winter ones. The global conference market, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, generates around $90 billion in Europe and $482 billion internationally. According to Bank of Greece data for 2001, the annual turnover from conference tourism stood at -184 million, representing 10 percent of the figure for tourism as a whole. This percentage is very high when considering that in 2001 conference and professional tourism was in its early stages in terms of investment and promotion and related in effect to the period leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games. The Association of Greek Exhibition and Conference Organizers (AGECO) suggested that the main comparative advantages of Greece in developing this kind of tourism are the following: – Ideal weather conditions, unique natural beauty, excellent cuisine, high-level hospitality, night entertainment, the feeling of security and the cultural and historic heritage across the country. – Modern infrastructures and well-organized, modern hotel units, especially in Attica, Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Alexandroupolis and other destinations in mainland Greece and on the islands. – Greece has outstanding conference centers in popular destinations such as Rhodes, Crete, Athens etc.

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