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PHILOXENIA 2003 CHRYSSA KRASSA, Exhibition Manager

At the end of October, Philoxenia, the Greek Tourism Exhibition, is taking place at Thessaloniki, the second town in Greece and candidate city for organizing the World Fair EXPO 2008, with one aim: to service the travel and hospitality industry as an effective exhibition vehicle in the broader area of South Eastern Europe and East Mediterranean. Mrs Chyssa Krassa, Exhibition Manager of Philoxenia, spoke to TravelDailyNews about this year’s exhibition.

TravelDailyNews: Do you foresee a drop in attendance to Philoxenia fair following the September 11 due to the safety & security problems? Has the safety and security problem hindered the exhibition in any way?

Chryssa Krassa: According to figures till today, there is no drop in attendance as far as the exhibitors are concerned. Although there is a global turbulence, that affects directly the travel market, I can say that travel and hospitality organizations invest a lot in their promotion, in order to overcome the negative consumer attitude after the 11th of September.

TDN: Many in the industry consider that destination-type tourism exhibitions are entering a decline, or at the very least have reached a saturation point. If so, do you believe this is just a phase that will pass? Have you seen the same or similar rate of increase of exhibitors and visitors in the past five years as experienced in years prior to that? Should fair organizers change their format in some way?

C.K.: Destination – type tourism exhibitions exist in the market for more than two decades. Thus, as any other product, are now at the maturity stage of the Product Life Cycle. The tourism market nowadays is more demanding is considered traveling to be more like an experience rather than leisure. Philoxenia puts a lot of effort to present not only the tourism destinations but also the separate tourism services and activities, that are targeted to specific niche of the travel market.

TDN: Do you believe exhibition organizers in Europe must make some drastic changes in the way they prepare and present their fairs in order to keep and increase their market share?

C.K.: Efficiency and effectiveness are the two words that the exhibitions organizers should have in their mind when organizing a tourism fair. The whole promoting and implementation process should have one target; to satisfy the needs and wants of the two key customers, the exhibitors and the visitors.

TDN: Overall, the tourism sector is undergoing a very difficult period but international organizations tell us the worst is over. So, is this the right time to attend exhibitions or should exhibitors hold off until there is more conclusive evidence that the worst is over?

C.K.: The entire marketing theory highlights that in times of prosperity and market decline, companies should invest a fair amount of their budget to promotional activities. Fairs are the most effective and valuable tool for promoting tourist products and services.

TDN: Have you noticed any major changes in exhibition trends over the past couple of years?

C.K.: Exhibitions (all the players of an exhibition; organizers, exhibitors, visitors) are more professional these days compared to the near past. All the participants are more organized and present themselves in the most professional way. On the other hand organizers understand completely that only quality services and the creation of important exhibition leads are the two key elements that contribute to an augmented differentiated exhibition product.

TDN: Is the Internet trend with its online travel, destination information, etc., for example, perhaps a threat to all types of tourism exhibitions?

C.K.: Exhibition is the only marketing tool that involves face-to-face communication. Internet is cost effective, very useful in gathering information but has no direct communication. Thus, in my point of view, Internet is a complementary tool for trade fairs and not a substitute.

TDN: Is your fair concentrating on any major changes this year and in the near future? What future technology changes do you expect to make exhibitions more effective, e.g., huge destination wall screens, computer-placed exhibition mapping throughout a fair, etc.?

C.K.: Our plan for the next event is to accommodate extensively in our show all the countries and regions of the new emerging and very promising markets of the Balkan and former USSR countries. Thus, this year Russia will be the honored country, presenting not only its tourism potentials but also its culture and historical heritage.

TDN: What major changes have you seen in the past year or so regarding market trends and the destinations that participate in your fair? For example, what new destinations are competing at the fair for market share? Is there a special type of tourism product being promoted more than another for your market in general? Do you foresee and changes in these areas for the immediate future?

C.K.: Tourism exhibitions nowadays are more sophisticated and offer different customized product in segment markets. They have pass from the era of presenting mass tourism activities and leisure holidays to other forms of tourism trying to satisfy special needs and wants. Thus, a destination, which is the core tourism product, is not enough by itself for a successful positioning in the travel market. Destination Market Organization should augment their products with extra features, services and activities, in order to compete successfully in the tourism market.

TDN: Which are the most important and emerging markets for the Greek travel trade? What is your strategy to attract more exhibitors and/or visitors from USA, Middle East, E.U. countries, Balkan countries, Mediterranean countries.

C.K.: Greece has a great opportunity and at the same time a potential threat organizing the Olympic Games. Moreover, Thessaloniki, the second town in Greece, where PHILOXENIA is taking place, is a candidate city for organizing the World Fair EXPO 2008. These two mega events will create unlimited opportunities for the travel, hospitality and event industry.

TDN: Do you foresee a positive or negative change in the number of travelers to and out of Greece this year due to the many problems we have confronted over the past few years? Which are the favourite destinations for the Greek travellers?

C.K.: If we don’t have any negative, external, unpredictable forces, I strongly believe that due to the major events that will be organized the next five years in the country, the figures of incoming travelers will rise constantly year by year. In parallel, the number of Greeks visiting abroad will rise also.

TDN: Do tourism professionals take proper advantage of all the opportunities available to them at your fair? Do you believe that most know how to use a fair properly? If not, is there anything exhibition organizer can do to help solve this problem?

C.K.: Exhibition marketing is relatively a new concept in the marketing mix. Participation in a tourism exhibition has numerous advantages, which are at the same time potential participant prospective, quantitative like hard selling and qualitative like enhance cooperation or creating a network. Most of the attendees of travel shows are unaware of the different advantages of exhibition and moreover the specific techniques that are needed, in order o have an effective participation, Exhibition organizers have an ethical obligation to educate the travel industry professionals by organizing seminars or other educational events, where event specialists can transfer their knowledge to the tourism industry. ETTFA trying to help tourism professionals has published in cooperation with the W.T.O. the “Exhibitors Guide”, which is a very useful tool.

TDN: What is the basic aim of your fair? Do you foresee any basic changes your company’s aims for the next five years?

C.K.: Philoxenia’s basic aim is to offer a travel business platform to all attendees and to create qualified leads among exhibitors and visitors. The five years plan of PHILOXENIA is to service the travel and hospitality industry as an effective exhibition vehicle in the broader area of South Eastern Europe and East Mediterranean.

TDN: What will be the contribution of Philoxenia 2003 to the Athens Olympic Games of 2004?

C.K.: The contribution of PHILOXENIA is twofold:

a) The Olympic Games 2004 will use PHILOXENIA in order to highlight the tourist aspect of the games and

b) PHILOXENIA will take advantage of the Olympic Games 2004 in order to establish its brand name all over the world.

TDN: How do you exploit the network of ETTFA in order to achieve your goals?

C.K.: “Synergy” is a Greek word that fits completely to the network of ETTFA. Good cooperation, exchange of knowledge and experience, lobbying and networking are few of the many advantages of being a member of ETTFA.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.