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July 14, 2015

After the Bailout, What's Next for Greece's Business Scene?




On Monday, the Greek government and European Union creditors agreed to a deal for an €86 billion bailout to be paid over three years. As the BBC is reporting, the nation's Parliament must pass four pieces of legislation by the end of Wednesday, including VAT reforms that will affect international travelers. If the deal fails, Greece's banks face collapse and the country could then be forced to leave the euro.

The GBTA predicted last week that the domestic component of Greek business travel should continue after a short pause, albeit at higher prices. The story also noted that favorable exchange rates and lower prices from everything from hotels, air fares and rental cars may drive both leisure and business travel alike.

By Thursday, HAPCO, the Hellenic Association of PCOs, working with the City of Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Thessaloniki Convention Bureau, released a statement to business travelers and event planners: "Given the current developments in Greece, the National Meetings Industry cannot foresee any changes in confirmed business events...Regarding conferences and meetings, scheduled for 2015, 2016, 2017 & forward, HAPCO Members (PCO and MICE Companies) and of course the entire National Meetings Industry and Travel Sector reassure the continuation of their high-level services and total commitment towards their responsibilities."

HAPCO also emphasized that both tourism and meetings associations throughout Greece were making "their best efforts on a daily basis" to keep events operating as normal.

And they have good reason to do so: According to Crains, travel to Greece remains on par this year with previous years, and the tourism and travel sectors represent 17.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product, a much higher share than in Italy or all of Europe, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In Greece, visitor spending is growing by about 3 percent a year, and contributes $39.1 billion to the economy.

Business travel, however, only makes a small portion of those numbers. The WTTC noted that last year, business travel spending accounted for only 5.9 percent of Greece's travel and tourism GDP, bringing in in €1.3 billion. While that percentage is not strong, it also indicates room to grow, making it a sector with good potential for the country's overall tourism scene.

With the bailout, Greek destination management companies expect corporate bookings to increase, IMR partner MeetPie is reporting. The local companies have welcomed the agreement, saying it came at a crucial tipping point, with clients ready to pull out of their planned trips to Greece. Kipling Events MD Angela Kipling said the deal was likely to increase corporate business over the next six months by sparking confidence in the economy. DMC Optimum Greece MD George Kiayas said the deal had given the country a new start.


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