“All of us are food travelers, which means experience, immersion and memories,” said Maria Athanasopoulou during the launch last week of the Greek Gastronomy Tourism Forum, which took place at Athens’ Divani Caravel Hotel.
Owner of Thessaloniki-based event organizer Respond on Demand and representing Greece in the World Food Travel Association (WFTA)together with partner Top Tourism founder Chryssa Krassa, Athanasopoulou announced on Friday, the Food TreX Thessaloniki – Regional Food Travel Summitto be held in the northern port city on October 7 at the Hyatt Regency.
She went on to add that Respond on Demand recently launched the Greek Food Tourism Volunteers initiative, which aims to serve as a channel of communication and exchange, and at the same time create the conditions for the development of food tourism.
“The idea is to bring together all food tourism stakeholders, explore the possibilities, research and then make decisions,” she tells GTP Headlines, underling the importance of those participating “wanting to serve”.
“The Greek Food Tourism Volunteers was set up a month ago and we’ve already received dozens of applications which are being assessed,” she says, adding that “we want to bring people together who share a vision and will contribute to the cause through their own area of specialization”.
Friday’s event focused on two particular factors with regard to food tourism in Greece: its definition and the fact that though Greece has a vast wealth of culinary traditions and practices as well as an abundance of products very few people know much about these.
Consistency & Sharing
“Greek cuisine dates back to 400BC… it is one of the main reasons people select a destination, and developing gastronomy tourism has multiple benefits… it leads to the creation of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) products, certification, research and promotion,” said Xeni Gerna, professor of Tourism Management and Marketing, tourism ministry, Vocational Institute of Tourism Thessaloniki.
“There are many initiatives happening now to promote Greek gastronomy in tourism but there is also much confusion,” Gerna tells GTP Headlines.
“It is of vital importance to move ahead with targeted actions and ensure consistency,” she says, adding that an effective marketing approach involves as many awareness-raising events as possible with speakers who will focus on one single area of interest.
“It is for me of utmost importance that each stakeholder focus on one area of specialization and share insight and knowhow consistently on that without expanding into wider, vaguer concepts,” she says, noting that targeted activities with well-versed speakers experienced in one area will lead to a clear understanding of what gastronomy tourism is all about and how to tap into its sweeping potential.
Gerna said that the government was currently working on making gastronomy one of the three leading reasons motivating travelers to visit Greece, pointing to the immersive power of food, which can be combined with culture to create a wide array of diverse products.
Breaking Greek Borders
Speaking at the event, experts from the fields of coffee and Greek fish roe to hotels and award-winning wines all agreed on one thing: foreigners know very little about the history and wealth of Greek cuisine, the traditions of food, table and hospitality, the variety and quality of Greek products, the existence of highly-trained chefs, innovative restaurants, and where to find all this.
Efforts are being made on an individual level to change this. A case in point, Zorbabook.The youngest speaker at Friday’s event, Dimitris Palaiogiannis underlined the importance of getting to know Greek food before coming to Greece. In this direction, a year ago he created Zorbabook – a B2B and B2C platform where members have the chance to network, market their products, and upload events, or simply learn about these and where to find them.
“We are currently offering a channel of communication to over 2,000 business and 1,500 producers,” he tells GTP Headlines, adding that the aim of the platform is to offer a daily, 24-hour digital showcase of Greek food and tourism, where professionals can promote their brands, increase their customer base, boost brand awareness and promote Greek gastronomy worldwide.
At the same time, Athanasopoulou underlines the importance of bringing the WFTA on board with the Food TreX Thessaloniki – Regional Food Travel Summit, which, she says, is a great opportunity to set the groundwork for Greece’s gastronomy tourism options to get out on the market effectively.
Aiming to provide food travel trade education, foster networking opportunities, and develop food and beverage tourism, the WFTA launched its new FoodTreX food travel conference brand, in November, and included Thessaloniki among its events demonstrating Greece’s increasing role in this travel segment. More information on the event can be found here. Those interested in joining the Greek Food Tourism Volunteers can send a brief bio here.