The Monarch Travel Group has submitted proposals for two “substantial” joint campaigns to promote Greece after hearing that more than £20 million in “emergency funds” has been secured by the Greek government.
The group, which includes tour operator Cosmos Holidays, put in proposals last week for the two heavy-weight advertising campaigns to the Greek National Tourism Organisation on Friday.
The move follows unconfirmed reports the Greek government has secured funding to support UK tour operator campaigns to promote the destination.
Two weeks ago the Greek minister for culture and tourism Pavlos Yeroulanos had a meeting with travel companies and organisations, including Abta, the Association of Independent Tour Operators, Monarch Travel Group, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook in the UK.
Abta and Aito have now sent a strongly-worded letter to the Greek government for funding to help boost tourism.
Managing director Hugh Morgan said: “I was very impressed with the minister and we are keen to support Greece. We made it clear that we would match any funding they have got in their marketing budget £1 for £1. That’s the message we got over loud and clear. It has to be tactical and driving people into travel agents to book. We need specific calls to action.”
He said the group had decided to put forward two substantially-sized campaigns, which would involve online and off-line advertising, after positive reports that funding would be made available.These were submitted to the GNTO on Friday, proposing that the funding is split evenly between Monarch and the GNTO.
“Someone has to set the ball rolling,” added Morgan. “We are chasing a response but at the moment it’s a waiting game.”
Morgan said there were no plans to reduce the group’s capacity of 100,000 passengers to Greece this year and said its sales were outperforming the market, with sales 14% up. It is understood that current industry statistics show Greece is 13% down in a market down 8% overall.
But Morgan warned: “The market is slowing down and we have got a long way to go. We cannot afford to be complacent and neither can the Greek government.”
Mark Hall, head of product for Thomson and First Choice, says: “TUI UK has a flexible business model and we constantly review our programme throughout the season and adjust capacity according to supply and demand.
“Greece remains a popular destination for our holidaymakers offering a wide choice of accommodation, stunning beaches and plenty to see and do. We have invested a lot in our programme to Greece and have a number of exclusive, differentiated product there including our flagship Holiday Village in Rhodes and Thomson’s Sensatori Resort in Crete.
“Both of these properties are selling well and we are confident that Greece can be a successful destination for us this year”
“As with any of our holiday destinations we welcome and encourage support from the tourist boards, particularly in the current economic climate.
“Given recent events and news coverage in Greece, I would suggest that now would be a good time to invest in marketing and PR to sustain the longevity and viability of the Greek tourism industry.”
EasyJet also said it welcomed any help from the Greek government to boost visitors to the country although said it was already seeing numbers rising this year and it was on track to break the 400,000 UK passenger mark.
This year’s performance comes on the back of a 7% rise in passenger numbers in 2011 to 388,000 said Paul Simmons, UK director of easyJet.
“We are seeing some impact on yields for places like Athens but people are intelligent enough to differentiate between there and the islands where it is perfectly safe and there is no unrest.
“I think what Abta and Aito have done to ask to additonal funding is absolutely right – they have a job to do to encourage people to go to Greece. There is a bigger role for the Greek government to play in terms on continuing to bang the drum as to why Greece is still a great place to go on holiday.”
Simmons’ take in the Greek market echoes views from other suppliers to the dynamic packaging sector that the picture is not as bad as the more traditional tour operators are claiming.
This has prompted speculation that the downturn has prompted a shift in consumer behaviour away from pre-packaged holidays more towards DIY to shave off costs as has happened in other short-haul destinations.
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