By Ilias Karagiannis
As the daily hustle and bustle of our lives slows down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, images of a possible chance of happiness pop up on our screens. Sea, beaches, archaeological sites, museums, beautiful nature scenes, walking tours. Greece from our home!
The “Greece From Home” initiative clearly highlights the stereotypical stubbornness of many Greek people. The lockdown led to the freezing of tourism in Greece and instantaneous action was needed to keep the beauty of Greece in the minds of potential visitors. Hence, the creation of “Greece From Home” in record time, caused a flood of relief to millions of visitors who, even from their homes, “got drunk” under the influence of a strong dose of Greece.
Behind the planning and implementation of this pioneering project, which was commented on favourably by the international media, is a group of Greeks who in collaboration with the CCO of the Greek Government, Steve Vranakis, Ministry of Tourism, the GREEK NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANIZATION (GNTO) and Google, designed a creative campaign which provided an escape from the repetitiveness of every day.
Ioanna Dretta, CEO of “Marketing Greece,” speaks exclusively to The Greek Herald as a member of this group and explains to our readers, who will inevitably stay away from Greece in 2020, the reasons that led to this movement.
Ioanna Dretta graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering at NTUA, with a postgraduate degree from Imperial College London and Harvard Kennedy School. However, since 2011, she has been systematically engaged in the promotion of Greece to tourists and says whilst its future may seem ominous right now, the recent #GreeceFromHome initiative can offer some restrained optimism.
“The initiative is first and foremost an example of how public-private partnerships can produce positive results. This union of the Ministry of Tourism and EOT with Marketing Greece and Google shows how extremely fast reflexes and strategic decisions can help tourists maintain an image of Greece in their thoughts and dreams,” Mrs Dretta says.
“In the midst of these shocking moments that humanity is experiencing, the need to keep dreaming and waiting for the next day is more important than ever. Getting to know new places, cultures and societies is an integral life experience for human beings and that has now been taken away from them.
“So it is imperative that we send a message of optimism until we can travel again and fill our “suitcases” with new experiences. So we invite, through discovergreece.com which supports the greecefromhome.com platform with original content for Greece, international tourists to dream of the moment they visit our country and live the Greek summer.”
Wounded Greek tourism will succeed again
In Greece, of course, the big debate has to do with tourism and the lost season – that of 2020.
“I think we should first say that this pandemic will change our way of life. The upheavals, the differences and the changes from the pandemic will certainly bring us to a new reality. Clearly, tourism has been hit not only in Greece but globally, as it interacts exclusively with people. After a truly 8-year successful course, Greek tourism, wounded, is called upon to stand on its own two feet again. United, with passion for our Greece and learned in the difficult times, we are sure, as in the past, that Greek tourism will succeed again,” Mrs Dretta says.
But uncertainty is at its peak even for the 2021 season. With such conditions, can people start planning?
“As you rightly describe, no one knows what the development and course of this pandemic will be. It is too early to talk about 2021. At Marketing Greece we have chosen to maintain our positive attitude, our creativity, our flexibility and our reflexes at high levels so that we can adapt and respond at any time to the new data and issues that arise,” she continues.
“And here I want to share with you that I have the honour and joy to work with a really strong team, that of Marketing Greece, which consists of young people with creativity, a high sense of responsibility and love for what we do. And I think that is the strongest “weapon” in such a situation. ”
The worst nightmare of a pandemic has awakened and will leave unhealed wounds in many of our fellow human beings. Does this mean that the orientation of the tourist product should also change?
“The pandemic is changing people as I mentioned above, and because tourism is based almost exclusively on people, either as an employee or as a visitor, I think we will be faced with new issues. The tourist product offered by Greece will be called upon to reshape and follow the international practices that will be defined, which is completely logical and normal, as security plays a role and will continue to play an important role in choosing a destination,” Mrs Dretta says.
“But the tourist product of Greece is the country itself. Its culture, its sea, its gastronomy, its landscapes, its way of life and especially its own people who make the difference. All this will be acclimatised to the new data, but their values, their dynamics, their unique identity and the emotions they provoke will remain the same.”
“Proud of Greece” and the Greeks of Australia
The positive promotion of Greece in the management of the pandemic is a trump card for the future of the country, as Mrs Dretta says it has already started to be headlined.
“The fact that Greece is presented as a case study by the international media personally makes me feel proud of our country. I believe that the positive publicity that Greece has received has already begun to take root as it is automatically placed in the public consciousness as a safe destination. As a destination that can manage a crisis responsibly and vigorously. And because the trip is mainly an emotion, let me say that with the data so far, we have another reason to be optimistic about the future of Greek tourism,” she stresses.
However, in Greece these days, many organisations are expressing the demand for a change in the production model and a direction away from tourism to other sectors so that there is no dependence.
“Tourism has been supporting the Greek economy all these years with very significant figures and is essentially strengthening society through the development of jobs. In my opinion, the aim is not to reduce tourism but to develop the other sectors accordingly. To join forces, as tourism did, to strengthen their partnerships, to focus on their vision. Marketing Greece was created by tourism itself, in the midst of an economic crisis, with the aim of promoting and strengthening the image of Greece abroad. Initiatives and synergies are the key words. Adopt new business models. Faith in vision.”
The Greeks of Australia are also an important part of tourism, Mrs. Dretta reveals.
“Hellenism abroad is a huge asset for the country itself as it is the most ardent supporter and passionate ambassador of culture, beauty and lifestyle in Greece. Through Greeks abroad, Greece travels all over the world, and their contribution to any effort we make is always important. Especially in this unprecedented situation, the Greeks of Australia can dynamically strengthen Greek tourism and motivate Australians to visit our country, which they have been doing all these years,” she stresses.
“However, as we are still in this cyclone of developments and none of us knows what the sequel will be, it is too early to make any relevant stance on tourism planning. However, this is an occasion to thank the Greeks of Australia and the Australians, because at discovergreece.com they are our 9th largest market.”