The global economic downturn hit Greece harder than most, but over the last two summers the increase in tourism has begun to shine through onto the economy of this sun kissed and vibrant Mediterranean country, as Phil Blizzard reports for Breaking Travel News.
The city of Athens, host for this year’s World Travel Awards European Gala Ceremony, has seen a boost in tourism numbers over previous years, according to hoteliers in the Greek capital.
At the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel, in the heart of historical district, George Molodovanos the general manager, says the internet is driving their increase in room nights.
Molodovanos explains: “It provides big revenues for us because many guests now use more and more the internet to do their bookings.
“They are going to have a look everywhere, choose, see all the things and choose by themselves.”
He also says that the hotel’s popularity is also down to its location.
He continued: “We are in the centre of the Ancient Greece - we are very near all the monuments.
“Very close to the Acropolis, the New Acropolis Museum, all in walking distance.
“Right next to the Plaza, the old city of Athens where you have the street cafés, the flea market and everything.”
Phil Blizzard talking with George Molodovanos, general manager of Divani Palace Acropolis
Across the neighbouring Syntagma Square, past the Parliament building, and close to Athens other famous square, Omonia, I visited the Divani Caravel Hotel to meet general manager John Pasorrakos.
Breaking Travel News: We are in the heart of the city, so give us some indication of the importance of the location of your hotel?
John Pasorrakos: Well, our hotel is near to the city centre, with most embassies being nearby along with the cultural museums.
BTN: You are very much a business-focused hotel. Give us an overview of the type of hotel guests you have and the events you hold here?
JP: Actually, it’s mainly exhibitions and medical conferences, business, we have members of Parliament also staying here, political parties, all big events as we have many meeting rooms.
BTN: From what you’re saying, some very prestigious events and prestigious guests. Now, for you, the conference season and the exhibition season is taking the summer break but the city seems to be bustling. Do you see a change with perhaps more leisure guests, more tourists, coming to stay in your hotel?
JP: Actually, this year, we see a big change.
That’s what, as a country, we expected and hoped.
Many touristic people groups coming and last-minute bookings.
Every day, it’s changing 20 to 30 rooms by walk-in clients or via the internet.
Athens is back on the tourism map
BTN: That’s interesting to say “via the internet.” How important is the internet and digital communication for you?
JP: Actually, it’s getting better and better.
It’s the solution.
The hotel contacts directly the guests and guests the hotel.
If they’re serious, they can book them themselves with any intermediate.
BTN: Okay, well, just driving around Athens today, there seems to be a lot of visitors who are not really your target audience, so to speak. In terms of tourism for Greece and the economy in general, is there a turnaround? People are saying there is.
JP: It definitely is, I mean, this year we see a big augmentation in tourists coming to Greece. That’s a hope in our schedule actually.
All islands are quite full this season.
It’s a big change from last year and hopefully the crisis will finish.
BTN: Now from our view, here at the roof top swimming pool, we’re looking towards the coastline and the important Port of Piraeus. This is not only for tourists going to the islands but also important, from a business perspective, to the economy of Greece. How important is that port?
JP: It is very important.
Actually, very big cruise companies, they have Piraeus on their schedules.
Last year and this year, it’s getting better and better. We hope it will continue like that.
BTN: To finish off, looking at the future, what are your aims, your aspirations for 2015 and beyond?
JP: Well, actually, to get better in the business sector.
Last year, Greece was out of the plan because of the crisis.
But this year, we also saw big companies from abroad, like IBM et cetera come here for conferences.
The state says that they will make a big conference centre in Athens and that is what we are expecting. Hopefully with this, it will get better and better.