A presentation about Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki as touristic destinations will take place at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam, on June 8, at 17.00. The Deputy Mayor of Thessaloniki for Tourism Development & International Relations, Spiros Pengas, will be leading the delegation. Next to him, will be tourist agents, hotel owners, university vice rectors and other local representatives of Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki.
The presentation will be open for the public, and it will be followed by Business to Business Meetings, for those tourism industry people who want to have some 1 on 1 face time with the deputy mayor and his team. If you want to have a B2B meeting, you will need to fill in this PARTICIPATION FORM and send it to this email: email@example.com
What is “CITY DIPLOMACY”?
The Municipality of Thessaloniki has succeeded in leading the city of Thessaloniki from tourism development to tourism specialization, through the “CITY DIPLOMACY” action. Since 2011, when Yiannis Boutaris’ team and the extroverted framework that they represent first stood at the helm of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, it very quickly became apparent (the signs of the financial crisis had were already visible) how urgent the need was for the city to start opening up outwardly and to find ways to attract visitors. Thessaloniki had to rediscover its beauty, its history, its potential; it had get what it deserved based on its advantages; it had to start “selling” itself abroad once again. To become a cosmopolitan city, open to and tolerant of foreigners. A city full of tourists. So a strategy for dynamic extroversion was mapped out and the first target markets were determined, based on Thessaloniki’s geographic location and multicultural profile.
The first target were the BALKANS. The second target were our other neighbours, the “misunderstood” for many, TURKS, who visit Thessaloniki in ever increasing numbers, after the creation of the museum – home of Kemal Atatourk. The third target was ISRAEL. A people with a history in Thessaloniki and which loves this city. Two peoples connected by a lot. Thessaloniki used to be called “Jerusalem of the Balkans”. We will never forget that the Jews played an important role in the life of our city and their contributions to the sectors of education and trade. Their presence in Greece suffered a detrimental blow after the annihilation brought about by the Holocaust. The fourth target was RUSSIA, with Orthodox Christianity being the powerful link between our two countries.
It was quickly realised that the participation of the Municipality of Thessaloniki in International Tourism Fairs abroad was not enough, and that more targeted moves were imperative. That is when the plan to conquer the first target was put into action and a trip was made to Skopje in December 2013, headed by the Mayor and representatives from the tourism sector, concerning the presence of Thessaloniki. This visit helped created the framework in which the Municipality would act abroad and it included three stages.
- The creation of a major delegation consisting of city bodies involved in tourism.
- Organising a major event to present Thessaloniki to the public abroad, both as a tourist destination, but more importantly as an educational, gastronomical, business and medical destination.
- Business To Business (B2B) meetings between the Greek delegation and foreign businessmen.
This effort was named CITY DIPLOMACY
The next trip was to BELGRADE, from 28 to 30/10/2014. This visit made a big promotional splash, which resulted in an increasing number of individuals from sectors related to tourism, but each from different backgrounds (catering, real estate, universities, advertisement firms, etc.), wanting to participate in City Diplomacy. Thus, the decision was made that Thessaloniki was to be promoted abroad not merely as a tourist destination, but as a gastronomical, business, educational and medical destination.
In the sector of education, with four public universities in its quiver, Thessaloniki is an ideal city for students, and meets all the criteria necessary in order to act as a regional or even global Educational Hub. The constant increase of educational institution participation (public and private), led to the idea of equipping City Diplomacy with new tools, thus creating Study in Thessaloniki.
Study in Thessaloniki is a special meeting and presentation (held in the framework of C.D.) for the university community, during which Greek institutions present study opportunities in Thessaloniki, as well as their services in general, to a corresponding audience consisting of universities, private colleges, schools and student career offices, university students, secondary school students (who are tomorrow’s university students) and parents. In order to support the programme, a logo was created for the project, along with the www.studyinthessaloniki.gr website, where one can find information on the graduate and post graduate study programmes available in Thessaloniki.
However, one of the ideas of the Municipal Council was that Thessaloniki should be a health tourism destination. So, in December 2014, a meeting was held (organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki) between the Municipality and medical professionals (from clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, wellness centres), both private and public. This meeting aimed at the Municipality being informed on the sensitive issue of “Health Tourism” by experts from the health sector. Basic questions were raised, such as, what moves have been made in this sector, by whom, and where are we at this point in time? From the very beginning of the meeting the Municipality stressed that it intended to provide assistance wherever necessary in order to make Thessaloniki a medical destination. Taking into account that City Diplomacy aims at making Thessaloniki known abroad, and seeing as this is the first step in developing health tourism, the next delegation, which was sent to Istanbul, was accompanied by the President and Vice-President of the Medical Association.
The municipality’s strategy and the unfolding model of City Diplomacy
City Diplomacy is a circle that is constantly becoming broader. It started visiting countries that have a cultural connection to Thessaloniki. Whose peoples have lived there, left their mark there and helped shape its present profile. Visits have been planned for 2016 to mature European markets, specifically Milan and Bologna, Nicosia, Cologne, Paris, as well as St. Petersburg, in the framework of 2016 being the “Greece-Russia Year”. According to City Diplomacy’s strategy we will continue towards Central Europe and in 2017 we will visit more distant and dynamic (USA, Canada) or rapidly growing (China, India) markets.
The City Diplomacy model has picked up momentum in the country itself, resulting in presentations having been made in Veria, Kastoria, Kalamata and Ioannina. It should be noted that the city of Ioannina has already adopted the idea and started off in February 2016 with its first visit, to Brussels.
City Diplomacy wants the medical world by its side when it comes to programming over the next few years. The goal of the Municipality of Thessaloniki is for Thessaloniki to become recognized in the health tourism sector that it has to offer; to create Health in Thessaloniki.
And it can succeed because :
- It is a safe city
- It is in the ideal geographical location, there are many tourism areas surrounding it (Chalkidiki, Pieria, etc.) and it is an international transportation hub.
- It has high quality infrastructure both in the health sector and in the tourism sector, as well as excellently trained doctors and nursing staff, and
- It has reasonable prices.
There is not doubt that in order to achieve this goal strategic planning is required, the creation of a common action plan (an institutional framework, certifications, etc.), but what is most necessary, is the collective effort, the cooperation with local bodies (the Municipality, Prefecture, Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace ). Cooperation is also necessary between entrepreneurs (travel agencies with complete service packages, hotels that are patient-friendly). And, of course, joint action on an international level for the promotion of our medical product. All of the above will help develop Health Tourism, which will in turn help extend our tourist season.
To conclude, there is one certainty; that in its effort to promote the city as an attractive destination, the Municipality of Thessaloniki (and this has been confirmed by almost all participants in City Diplomacy) has succeeded in acquainting the city’s bodies with one another, helping them exchange experiences, search for solutions together, implement joint actions. A team of people was created with the same outlook on things. A team that has realised that they are all responsible for the progress of tourism in Thessaloniki, because the benefits are spread out among us all.
And in the end, the statements made by Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris at the very beginning, are becoming a reality: “We are clearing the way for you, you need to grasp this opportunity and create new partnerships”.
Read here how the two cities, Thessaloniki and Amsterdam, joined forces last October in Greece.