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High attendance at the International Tourism Congress [re]branding Destinations: Image making Philoxenia-Hotelia underway
The Minister of Tourism, Ms Elena Koundoura.
The work of the International Tourism Congress, which marked the beginning of the Philoxenia-Hotelia tourism exhibition 'duo', began this morning at the packed 'Emilios Riadis' hall of Thessaloniki International Exhibition Centre.
Commencing the work of the Congress, the President of TIF-Helexpo, Mr Tassos Tzikas, noted that Thessaloniki has managed to transform Philoxenia and Hotelia into the largest tourism event not only of the broader region, but of the entire country. Furthermore, he underlined the emphasis placed by the national exhibition agency on tourism, referring to the 'Greek Travel Show', the new TIF-Helexpo tourism exhibition to begin in Athens in May.
The Mayor of Marathon, Mr Ilias Psinakis.
Addressing participants in the congress, which she characterised as particularly important, the Minister of Tourism, Ms Elena Koundoura, stressed that Greek tourism is growing at twice the rate of international tourism, as the country achieved a growth rate of 7% to 8%, as compared to the international average of 3% to 4%. Ms Koundoura announced from the congress podium that over the course of 18 months, our country managed to attract 140 investment plans for hotels that have either already been licensed or are currently in the licensing stage. She also announced the achievement of another important objective, that of lengthening the tourism period, with tourist traffic continuing in certain regions until November, and stressed that every additional million visitors results in 70,000 to 90,000 new jobs.
The President of TIF-Helexpo, Mr Tassos Tzikas; the Minister of Tourism, Ms Elena Koundoura; the CEO of TIF-Helexpo, Mr Kyriakos Pozrikidis; the Mayor of Marathon, Mr Ilias Psinakis.
The Minister of Tourism was optimistic about our country's tourism performance this year, and attributed the success of the last two years to the cooperation of the Ministry and Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) with the Regions, Local Government, Chambers and private sector, stressing that we are all in the fight of tourism together and must continue working together in the future.
The Deputy Regional Governor for Tourism, Mr Alexandros Thanos, spoke about the efforts of the Region of Central Macedonia for the uniform promotion of the region, spearheaded by Thessaloniki, explaining that the brand of Central Macedonia being continuously enriched and strengthened. In fact, he stressed that during this year's Philoxenia, the Region of Central Macedonia is highlighting its gastronomic routes and 'Macedonian Cuisine'.
The panel of the thematic section 'The Balkan City model: A common history' - the Deputy Mayor for Tourism and International Relations of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, Mr Spyros Pegas; the Deputy Mayor of European and International Relations of Plovdiv, Mr Stefan Stoyanov; the representative of the Department of Tourism and Local Economic Development of Ohrid, Mr Gjorgji Trpeski; the representative of the Tourism Promotion Association of Edirne, Professor Emel Gonenc Guler.
In turn, the Deputy Minister of Interior (Macedonia-Thrace), Ms Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha, stressed that Northern Greece, with Thessaloniki at its centre, is a historical crossroads of culture, history, religion and art. Speaking about the positive performance of Greek tourism in recent years, she underlined the great effort made by the Ministry of Tourism and Ms Koundoura, nothing that we must not rest on our laurels, but continue the effort to promote the country.
The next speaker at the podium of '[re]branding Destinations: Image making' was the Mayor of Marathon, Mr Ilias Psinakis, who expressed his satisfaction concerning the presence of a youthful audience, and stressed that it is always positive when a city is 'illuminated' internationally, as was the case with Thessaloniki through Philoxenia. The Mayor of Marathon also spoke about his initiative to establish the Amphictyony of Ancient Greek cities, which now extends beyond the borders of Greece, stressing that we must 'redeem' our rich culture through tourism. Speaking about the efforts made by his own Municipality, he noted that each of us must contribute towards strengthening tourism.
Snapshot of the congress audience. The speaker at the podium is the CEO of the Tourism Organisation of Belgrade, Mr Miodrag Popovic.
The Deputy Mayor for Tourism and International Relations of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, Mr Spyros Pegas, stated that in five years, Thessaloniki has been transformed from a small, insignificant dot on the map into an internationally recognisable destination, explaining how it all began with the slogan 'Many Stories One Heart' and the well-known heart-shaped logo, adding that the Municipality must henceforth 'rebrand' history and the narrative it has been using for the city in recent years.
The Balkan city model
During the subsequent thematic section titled 'The Balkan city model: a common history', which Mr Pegas coordinated, the methods through which cities in the broader region are trying to attract tourists were presented.
The CEO of the Tourism Organisation of Belgrade, Mr Miodrag Popovic, stated that the belief that the image of a city is what people experience, not what the city says or does, is what his Organisation uses as a basis for the promotion of this destination. Using the slogan 'Go Belgrade', tourism stakeholders began to re-invent Belgrade, promoting entertainment, nightlife, youth, history, culture, modern infrastructure, and, above all else, as Mr Popovic noted, the fact that everything in Belgrade is familiar and friendly. These efforts achieved results, since the capital of Serbia has welcomed double the number of foreign visitors in recent years.
Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, with 500,000 citizens and 40,000 students, began its rebranding efforts in 2012. Since then, the city has become one of the top European destinations and has significantly increased its overnight stay numbers, in accordance with the Deputy Mayor of European and International Relations of Plovdiv, Mr Stefan Stoyanov. The city's goal is to welcome over 2 million visitors in 2019.
'Once in Ohrid always in Ohrid' was one of the slogans of tourism stakeholders for Ohrid, which, as noted by the representative of the Department of Tourism and Local Economic Development of
the city, Mr Gjorgji Trpeski, offers a unique experience to visitors. He underlined the multiple identities of Ohrid as a vibrant city, as well as a city of culture and history.
In turn, Professor Emel Gonenc Guler, representing the Tourism Promotion Association of Edirne, stated that numerous projects are underway in Edirne, focusing on wine tourism, natural hiking trails and history, making the city more attractive than other destinations in Turkey.
The sponsors of the Philoxenia congress are Mouzenidis Travel & Ellinair Group (accommodation), ΑCT-American College of Thessaloniki (coffee break), Domotel (catering) and the Transfer for All company (transports).
The work of the congress will continue until the afternoon.