Nobody knows what’s to become of Greece’s tourism industry this year. Though many experts are swimming to get the feet of their advice on solid land, a valid prospectus is nowhere in sight. The world has not even reached the peak of coronavirus cases, and we are still trying to apply stone-age business bandages to a 21st century bleeding wound. Things will never be the same, so why don’t we come to grips with it? Here’s a story of brilliant swimmers caught in a brutal pandemic’s undertow.
Part of the problem is that the coronavirus pandemic and its effects are new territory for everyone. In the tidal wave of unknowing hitting stakeholders worldwide, even the most astute experts appear to be half-drowned. Greece is a special case, though, since the world’s wondrous vacationland has only just recovered from one economic tempest, only to face an insurmountable tidal wave. Even Athens’ best-laid plans risk drowning the country’s most important industry.
Take for example a feature story is about Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) notifying Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on 10 targeted actions needed to restart and support the country’s tourism sector. It’s a regurgitation, a useless PR filler that tells us nothing about a bright tourism future. The problem with SETE data and recommendation reporting is not that their ideas are wrong. The problem is the world needs less reports and more action of an innovative kind. And nowhere in any of these reports from SETE or the tourism ministry will you find a prophylactic or prospectus of what Greece tourism should look like later on.
Let’s face it, if our experts spent less time creating reports on the painfully obvious, they could be painting a new future for Greece. Come on people, if Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis has not already made these recommendations, he should be fired. GTP has already spuked out the headline “Study: Greece’s Brand Name Key for Tourism to Recover from Covid-19.” As if brand maintenance has not been practiced since Zeus played in the valleys of Crete. Here is the lead of that story:
“Greek tourism stakeholders are counting on the country’s strong brand name to play a key role in the sector’s recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic subsides, according to a study released this week by SETE Intelligence (INSETE), the Greek Tourism Confederation’s (SETE) research body.”
Not only have SETE’s number crunchers restated the painfully obvious, the opportunism and callousness with which they refer to nations like Italy and Spain hard hit by coronavirus deaths bear mentioning. SETE is looking on the bright side of Armageddon and pointing out how Greece can make more tourism money than “competitor” nations once people start moving again.
“At the epidemiological level, the development so far in Greece is much better compared to its main competitors in tourism: Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.”
While this is a potential and something to be discussed once the crisis is over, but certainly not before Greece and the rest of the world is out of the woods. The SETE report goes on to profile other devastated countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and France with regard to 2020 outbound travel expectations for Greece. This is where SETE and many other organizations have their heads under the tsunami wave. If the tourism future they seek is a bold and better one, somebody’s got to step up. The good news is, SETE’s top executive Yiannis Retsos has a genius working with him. And now we get to the good swimmer somehow with his head out of the water.
SETE, in cooperation with Greece’s leadership, is innovating in support of tourism through the #greecefromhome initiative, which I reported on the other day. The Visit Greece channel operators are doing a great job with this promotion, as you can see in the Instagram below.
The campaign is from an initiative of Marketing Greece, which is a part of SETE. Some will remember this wing’s efforts from 2013, which ended up blasting Greece into the world tourism limelight. The #greecefromhome move is brilliant even though the website is not a work of art. The perfect timing of virtual Greece tourism, while people are in lockdown, is truly genius. However, nothing is perfect, and lack of funding or momentum will end up making this fantastic future tourism move a drip in an ocean of 2020 tourism noise.
This kind and useful branding campaign should be magnified. In short, more money and time should be put into very positive strategies. Unfortunately, no one seems to know how to expand on a great idea. Nobody is resharing the hashtag beyond Theoharis, the U.S. ambassador, Syros Island, and a few individual accounts. #greecefromhome on Instagram only has 1009 posts. People, this was a collaboration with Google! Where is the PR juice? I see where a Landrover outfit hijacked the tag, but no Google influencer using the hashtag has so far boosted the campaign. I’ll be willing to bet SETE CEO Yiannis Retsos has nowhere near the funding he needs. He’s been President of Marketing Greece since 2017, and it seems to me Athens should be utilizing SETE and helping him where the need is.
What about co-branding Crete and the other magnificent (and famous) Greek isles? Back in 2014, the Incredible Crete campaign ended up in success when hundreds of thousands more travelers visited Greece’s biggest island. Today, the ministry only runs a residual presence. A new website and campaign are in the works, but the super people behind it are underfunded and understaffed. Think about what the video from this past campaign above conveys. Nature, oneness, safety in solitude, and so forth.
Instead of capitalizing on past successes like Incredible Crete, the Athens stakeholders have turned to SETE and Marketing Greece, the nonprofit organization of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE). This Ekathimerini story discusses how:
“Marketing Greece is evolving into a central entity in the management of the unprecedented crisis in Greek tourism, particularly in the maintenance and strengthening of demand for traveling to Greece when the pandemic eventually subsides.”
Finally, I am sure that somebody involved has already suggested that Athens get McCann Erickson, the global advertising agency that helped create the Incredible Crete campaign. Their motto is “The Truth Well Told” -which seems like what’s needed most for Greece tourism going forward. As for opportunism and insulting Italians on the brink of eternity, SETE and Athens could sure use some PR help with their wording. And, somebody has to address Greece having been turned into a cheap destination hell-bent on unsustainable growth. During the lockdown, it’s the perfect time for some original thinking. No?