Greek conference tourism could generate €6.5 billion annually with the right infrastructure

Greece loses billions of euros every year in the MICE sector (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) due to a lack of infrastructurethe Hellenic Association of Professional Conference Organizers and Destination Event Specialists (HAPCO & DES) announced on Wednesday.

During a press conference, HAPCO & DES President Sissi Lygnou reiterated the call for government support to support the development of conference tourism in Greece.

Citing official data, Lygnou said the Greek MICE sector is currently contributing more than 2.5 billion euros annually to the national economy. This amount could potentially amount to 6.5 billion euros in the medium term, provided that the government invests in infrastructureespecially through the establishment of a large metropolitan conference center in Athens.

“Today, Greece loses more than twenty international scientific conferences and over a hundred business events every year,” said the President of HAPCO & DES.

According to Lygnou, Greece loses more than 100,000 conference visitors and more than 50,000 visitors to corporate events annual.

“There is a high demand for Greece as a destination for organizing mega conferences and corporate events,” Lygnou emphasized, adding that the MICE industry is not seasonal and attracts high-spending visitors and conference delegates.

“The sector must be supported by a national strategy and targeted promotion,” she said, adding that HAPCO & DES has submitted a plan to the Ministry of Tourism.

“It is a fact that, as a result of the lack of infrastructure and availabilityGreece is currently loss of at least 1 billion euros per year in income from conferences and events,” Lygnou emphasizes.

Citing recent data from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Lygnou noted that Athens maintained its momentum as one of the top conference cities in 2023, while Thessaloniki showed impressive growth.

Source: HAPCO & DES

Source: HAPCO & DES

According to ICCA it is Greece is in 16th place in the world for conference destinations in 2023, down from 13th in 2022, and 11th in Europe in 2023, down from 10th in 2022.

In the world ranking of cities Athens occupied 15th place in 2023down from 8th in 2022. In Europe, Athens ranked 11th in 2023, down from 8th in 2022.

On the other hand, Thessaloniki rose to 42nd place in the world rankings in 2023up from 78th in 2022, and to 26th in Europe in 2023, up from 51st in 2022.

What Greece needs to show as a destination for conference tourism

During the press conference, Secretary General of HAPCO & DES Tonia Alexandrou listed the association’s requests to the government to facilitate the growth of the Greek conference and events sector.

“Our main demand is that our sector does the same get the recognition it deservesAlexandrou said. “We call on the state to recognize and leverage the central role of the conference and events industry in the recovery and development of the country, as well as in the sustainable development and transfer of knowledge.”

Alexandrou reiterated HAPCO & DES’ request for a flexible, sustainable conference center in Athens capable of hosting international conferences with more than 6,000 delegates, as well development of infrastructure for business meetings and events with more than 1,500 participants.

Moreover, HAPCO & DES advocates targeted promotion of the MICE industry to international markets, including one improved presence at sector fairs such as IMEX.

“Greece even missing a promotional video show its potential as a destination for conferences and events… We urgently need to launch a special campaign for the Greek meetings industry and establish a comprehensive national promotion plan,” Alexandrou stressed.

HAPCO & DES requests also include the establishment of a national conference bureau and the setting up a conference register.

The association also advocates one VAT refund for associations and companies from abroad who organize events in Greece.

“This measure would increase Greece’s competitiveness in conference tourism compared to other European cities,” she noted.

HAPCO & DES also insists on it inclusion of event management as a course in the country’s tourism education curriculum.

It is worth noting that last year HAPCO & DES collaborated with the University of West Attica to improve educational programs.

“We need more support from the government… Our sector needs more than just private initiatives, and that can only go so far,” says HAPCO & DES chairman Sissi Lygnou underlined.

HAPCO & DES initiatives include a partnership with the This is Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and the Thessaloniki Convention Bureau (TCB) to establish the Greek Meetings Alliance (GMA) and promote Greece internationally as a conference destination.

Last year, the GMA joined forces with the International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services (IFES) to boost MICE activities in Greece.

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