Kos wants to make a tourism comeback after last year’s refugee crisis with new marketing measures as German bookings start to rise, speakers said at an fvw workshop on the Greek island.
The Greek holiday island suffered heavily last year as pictures of refugees in the main town and other parts of the island filled TV news reports. The island’s image suffered and bookings dropped heavily as a result.
The picture this year is very different, as participants, including 30 German travel agents, could see for themselves during last week’s workshop. The port in Kos Town is filled with yachts and boats waiting to take tourists on excursions. There are now only 400 refugees on the island, who are in accommodation in the interior of the island.
But the old images still seem to be in the minds of German consumers. Greece is generally seeing good demand this year, with strong sales for Crete, Rhodes and Corfu. But bookings for Kos are much weaker, according to German tour operators at the fvw workshop at the island’s International Convention Center, which attracted 200 participants.
Politicians, tourism officials, hoteliers and tour operators agreed that demand can only be improved with joint efforts. Dimitris Tryfonopoulos, General Secretary of the Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO), urged German tour operators: “Include us in your planning. Come to our aid.”
Germany is the most important source market for Kos, with about 200,000 visitors out of the overall one million foreigners who holiday on the island. “The island of Kos has suffered lots of extra losses,” Tryfonopoulos said, without naming current figures. In response, the GNTO has approved an additional budget to market the island.
Overall, Greek tourism has performed well in the first four months of this year with a 5% rise in German arrivals, according to GNTO figures. Last year, the number of German visitors to the country increased by 14.3% to 2.8 million, while the total number of international arrivals increased by 7.1% to nearly 24 million.
The forthcoming advertising measures were welcomed by German tour operators who reported a slight recent upturn in bookings for Kos. They hope that all kinds of marketing measures will now generate good late sales for the island.
“There will be a viral effect. The first guests were there in May and saw that there are no more refugees. The news will spread,” predicted Florian Fleischer, TUI’s head of product management for the Eastern Mediterranean. This would also help TUI which has nine concept hotels on the island and increased flight capacity by 15,000 seats for this summer.
Alltours was similarly hopeful about this summer. “We will increase the all-inclusive offering,” said Oliver Grosse-Kleimann, who is responsible for hotel contracting in Greece, the tour operator’s second-largest destination. The Düsseldorf-based company has already carried out press trips, radio advertising and information roadshows to try to stimulate demand for Kos. Grosse-Kleimann was optimistic that Kos can still “catch up significantly” this summer.