Too little informed, too late

In the past two years, the Hellenic Festival has made an enormous, and generally successful, effort at restructuring. Museums such as the Benaki’s new wing on Pireos Street have been putting on noteworthy exhibitions. Foreign groups and major stars now come to perform in Greece at the peak of their careers. Yet most visitors are completely unaware of these facts, and when they do realize what is on in Athens, it is often too late to find tickets. «In contrast to other cities where tourists make sure they include a cultural event in their visit, or even better, go there expressly for that purpose, here in Athens we are way behind even though we have a lot to offer,» said Panos Panyiotopoulos, director of the Inter-Continental Hotel in Athens. «It is extremely difficult for a visitor to find out what is currently going on in the city and even harder to find tickets,» he explained. «The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) should make special arrangements for the Hellenic Festival and not just reserve a small number of tickets for hotels. If visitors see a wonderful performance at the Herod Atticus Theater, they will be extremely motivated to come again.» For Panayiotopoulos, everything in tourism is a chain reaction. «In order to have visitors spend more time in Athens before going to the islands, we have to boost conference tourism. If conferences are held here, there will be more demand for Greece, so airline tickets will be cheaper. Those who come on business will stay the weekend, bring their wives and children, spend time at museums and galleries.» «Here at the Inter-Continental, we not only display works by Greek artists but we also organize a tour of galleries in Psyrri guided by an art historian. However, we shouldn’t have to be chasing up the museums, foundations and festivals; it should be the other way round. The bitter truth is that no cultural organization has ever been in touch with us to brief us on its activities.»