Travel Trade Athens 2022: A Place to Meet from Ancient to Modern!

HQ went to this annual must-attend event for events and travel professionals, connecting more than 70 international buyers with leading suppliers to the Greek tourism and MICE industries.
18th Dec, 2022

“Reconnect”, “resume” or “reboot” are fairly recurrent words that the meetings industry has resorted to in this year of pandemic slowdown. Last May, Athens stepped up to the plate and stood before an audience of international buyers to promote its MICE products.

While certain destinations have taken advantage of this downtime to revamp teams, planning and even branding from one end to the other, others have only made one-off changes waiting for borders to reopen. In an extremely competitive market such as ours, putting these plans into practice does not embody within the same strategies or lead to the same results. To keep going is not as easy as it looks and that was one of the big takeaways from this trip to Athens this past May. For a start, the dense history of the city, cradle of Western civilisation and democracy, helps us explain the resilience and perseverance that time-based interruptions like COVID arouse – if just those walls could speak. But even if we think about Athens’ role as a global city due to its geo-strategic location and its importance in international trade, arts, culture, education and tourism, we find that change and progress does not strike fear into their hearts.

The answer to these yearnings was at Travel Trade Athens 2022: a must-attend annual event for events and travel professionals, connecting over 70 international buyers with the leading suppliers to the Greek tourism and MICE industries. International travel industry experts, representatives of various international associations and members of the international press, did not miss the call for this two-day immersive event, connecting Athens to key markets in Europe, the UK, the United States, and the Middle East. Organised by This is Athens-Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB), in cooperation with the European Tourism Association (ETOA), the small tradeshow provided over 1,500 meetings with officials from 90 Greek companies with the aim of strengthening local Greek industry to international opportunities in this recovery framework. And as traders prepared for work at the luxurious Hotel Grande Bretagne, a press conference next door at the King George Hotel was cutting the ribbons for the event with leading figures from the Greek industry. Athens Mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis, Aegean airlines President, Eftychios Vasilakis, Athens International Airport Communications and Marketing Director, Ioanna Papadopoulou and Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) CEO Vagelis Vlachos, took the pulpit to outline the various points on the promotion and profile of Athens for the times ahead. These included the announcement of a new Schengen lounge area at Elefthérios Venizélos airport, a 92% recovery in air traffic compared to last year, a strategic rise in the EU market and a commitment to reduce the carbon footprint by 100% by 2025.

“Despite all the difficulties given to us, the pandemic also gave us an opportunity to design and activate a comprehensive development plan for the City of Athens. It was a chance to reposition and develop Athens as an attractive, accessible, and sustainable city,” Vlachos told us. To implement this strategy, the city has focused on two pillars: emphasising conferences and meetings in order to position itself as a top choice for business travellers, and promoting and empowering local businesses with initiatives that promote entrepreneurship and innovation along with a roadmap for sustainable measures. It was also interesting to hear Mayor Bakoyannis portray the convergence between quality of life for residents and investment in Athens as a visitor destination: “In recent years, Athens has emerged as a destination for city breaks, for business travel, for investment and lm productions. (...) In the coming years we must start to change the paradigm and change the way we think. We have to understand our city holistically, not to separate the tourist from the local economy, but to treat our destination and our city as one.” A clear example of this was the This is Athens- City Festival with over 100 activities during the month of May for locals and visitors.

A short programme along Athens

The first leg on this family tour took us to The National Gallery − also known as the Alexandros Soutzos Museum, with its more than 20,000 works of art, it is considered the most important art museum in Greece and is particularly notable for its collection of Greek painting and sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries. However, what caught our attention most was undoubtedly the Ellinikon Experience Park, still under construction. Europe’s largest urban regeneration project that aims to be a multi-dimensional destination for global tourism, growing businesses and inclusive communities, connecting the heart of Athens with its charming coastline. Spreading over an area three times the size of Monaco, Greece’s largest development project is an €8 billion investment that aims to offer a multi-purpose mix of public parks, waterfront residences, retail and event spaces. It is expected to add up to 4.4% to the country’s economy and 75,000 jobs once completed, according to the developers. We end the day at the impressive Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a double building on Faliro Bay that includes the National Library and the Greek National Opera, as well as the sprawling Stavros Niarchos Park.

“Despite all the difficulties given to us, the pandemic also gave us an opportunity to design and activate a comprehensive development plan for the City of Athens. It was a chance to reposition and develop Athens as an attractive, accessible, and sustainable city,”

The Megaron Athens International Conference Centre – an AIPC member – is arguably the premier venue for large conferences attached to one of the city's landmarks, the imposing Athens Concert Hall. In the building’s facilities, there is a total offer of 143,000 square meters and a selection of 18 spaces (with 4 main auditoriums) for meetings, combined with large exhibition areas and foyer totalling 12,000 square meters. Conceived as a large-scale, multifunctional cultural centre, Megaron is fully equipped to accommodate concerts and other musical events as well as conferences, with a total capacity of 6,000 delegates. A 30-minute walk away to the National Garden, we come across another historic building revitalised as a conference and exhibition centre for both public and private purposes. A monumental palace dedicated to the most pronounced principles of Olympism, the Zappeion Megaron has 4,546 square meters of exhibition and congress halls and a Peristyle Central Circular Atrium, fully equipped to meet the needs of scientific conferences, and sports exhibitions. The visit continued through the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum and ended at the illustrious Acropolis Museum, before returning to the hotel through the picturesque and charming Anafiotika neighborhood (Plaka).

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