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Greece - An Odyssey in the Making?

Greece continues to be the focus of economic concern, and arguably not without good reason. However, with economic uncertainty increasingly creeping through the Eurozone, how has the situation in Greece changed in the last few months and what can corporate event organisers learn as the pressure comes to bear on other struggling Euro economies?

Jo, in our events team, was recently hosted on an educational trip to Athens and Crete, giving us a great first-hand view of the situation on the ground, some insight from properties and destinations about what is happening right now, and their future plans. All from a group event perspective.

Corporate events in Greece - business as usual?

Her initial impressions were very much “if I hadn’t read the news I wouldn’t have suspected much was wrong. The welcome is still there, cafes were busy, flights full and there was no hint of any desperate situation”.  Jo’s investigations bear out a ‘business as usual’ mindset – many business hotels running at around 75% occupancy, the majority of restaurants and bars busy through the week, and the Cape Sounio resort hosting an automotive press event shortly after her stay.

Corporate event opportunities

Jo’s trip took in Athens and Crete, so she got a good perspective on corporate event opportunities – for conferences and meetings, incentive travel groups and product launches. “As the media make us aware- the Greek economy has a huge debt burden, however, my experience has shown there is a realistic mind-set among those in the meetings and incentive travel industry and they are open for business”. Her trip summary is later, but what resonates is this sense of realism.

The situation does not appear to have worsened from when we previewed likely risk back in March, and given Greece is dependent on business tourism and events, ‘business as usual’ is perhaps no surprise. In order to try and get a voice above the general media noice, the sector is not standing still:

  • Room rates are more competitive than six months ago
  • Terms and conditions are more flexible
  • Communication to corporate event organisers has intensified

In other words, Greece may still present challenges for the corporate event organiser, but there is still undoubted value to be had, and this is one thing that has not changed since March. In fact we have a client event in Athens at the end of June, after which we will feedback some more.

A Greek Odyssey?

But is Greece alone? The crisis faced by Euro economies has not stabilised, witness Spain requiring support for struggling banks, and Ireland’s economy being significantly smaller than a year ago. There is risk and uncertainty across the Eurozone, and event planners need to be aware of its nature and how to work with partners to minimise its effect.

One thing is clear in Greece; the business sector is struggling to get its voice heard above the issues caused by the public sector. A key experience we have found is that with a lot of the issues being with the public sector, risk can be carefully minimised by avoiding likely interactions with services and locations that are likely flashpoints. And one final, but important thing; the risks within the whole Eurozone are not going to go away in the short-term and Greece, while having a tiny economy in the grand scheme of things, is an important bell-weather for the rest of the indebted destinations, and significantly those more favoured by the conference and incentive travel industry.

Do we have an odyssey? Yes, but not solely a Greek one I suspect.

Jo’s Greek Snapshot

Here’s where Jo went and her quick fire summary:

  • Aegean Air – All flights departed to schedule; leather seats in economy class; hot meal served on Heathrow to Athens flights, including beer, wine and soft drinks.  Aegean Airlines offer excellent in-flight service.
  • Athens International Airport – Easy airport to navigate and transit.
  • Cape Sounio Grecotel Resort – stunning location, set within a pine forest with exceptional views of the Temple of Poseidon.  An hours transfer from Athens Airport, the hotel has two private beaches, outdoor pool and conference space.
  • King George Palace Hotel – the hotel offers traditional style with great heritage, coupled with modern facilities and excellent service. 
  • Dionysys Restaurant – At the roots of the Acropolis with imposing views of the Parthenon, the restaurant offers a delicious menu of both international and Greek cuisine, in relaxed surroundings. 
  • New Acropolis Museum – definitely worth a guided visit, the museum houses 4,000 archaeological findings.
  • Heraklion Airport, Crete – Small busy airport with queues for security at peak times.
  • Amirandes Resort – the sunshine, spa and stunning setting are ideal for a specialist incentive.  The hotel offered exceptional service and attention to detail.

See some images from where Jo visited on our Greece for corporate events Pinterest board

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