Greece Offers Lessons in Redeploying Bloggers to Promote Offbeat Tourism – Skift
Greek islands like Mykonos and Santorini are exquisite destinations, but not many people explore less obvious areas like Epirus, home to the sanctuary of the mythical mother goddess Dodona – according to legend, she was an oracle to Zeus.
Discovered only in recent years, the site of Dodona is in the heart of rugged Epirus, where breathtaking canyons scarred the walls of its mountainous landscape in northwestern Greece.
Tourism in Greece has had one of the worst years in modern history, but the coronavirus crisis has given local bloggers an opportunity to reinvent their approach by exploring less chartered areas.
Travel Bloggers Greece (TBG) is a non-profit that has partnered with local bloggers who can venture deeper into the Hellenic state to provide people with slower and more culturally rich experiences as tourism slowly recovers.
“Traveling isn’t about ticking the boxes or getting the perfect Instagram shot. It’s about connecting on a deeper level, ”said Elena Sergeeva, co-founder of TBG.
Sergeeva, who has been in the tourism industry for 20 years, started blogging in 2012 when she was writing a master’s thesis on using social media to promote luxury hotels.
TBG’s Greek travel with a twist appeals primarily to those looking for adventure, context, and a taste of local culture.
“I’ve always focused on highlighting relatively unknown parts of Greece,” said Rania Kalogirou, a member of TBG that also owns Definitely Greece, a family business that creates bespoke luxury routes for global customers who like to travel slowly.
“Small groups, remote villages and nature escapes where guests can see the authentic and intimate side of Greece are key aspects,” said Kalogirou, who is also a travel writer.
Kalogirou family business takes the slow travel experience very seriously. For one, it encourages like-minded female travelers to make friends through its women-only tours. The agency also caters to the “extroverted introvert” – a traveler who is sometimes an anomaly for the mainstream industry.
On a “premium” tour to southern Greece, Greece will definitely take history lovers to ancient palaces of prominent kings, where Homer is immortalized forever. You also make your way to the Peloponnese, where rugged castles still stand despite numerous pirate attacks from the Aegean Sea.
But these adventures are only the tip of the iceberg for Rania, who embarked on a freighter voyage across the Suez Canal from Singapore to Istanbul. And no, she wasn’t a stowaway; The ship’s captains welcomed TBG’s elite blogger.
Currently TBG has around 10 local blog members and two international members from the US and UK. The six-year group has worked with more than 25 travel destinations and hundreds of local businesses, including tour operators, transportation companies and hospitality businesses.
What sets this group apart from today’s typical influencers is their passion for writing and their extensive experience in tourism and hospitality.
“Together we deliver a holistic approach to promoting a destination or tourism company that we work with. We plan blogger trips by working directly with the destinations and we all promote the destinations through our blog, ”said Sergeeva, who comes from the hospitality industry.
Iliad on Recovery
In the summer of 2020, when Greece was first opened to tourists, TBG was approached by destinations such as Tolo in the Peloponnese, Epirus and Kasos to promote their tourism. The group is not government funded, but these unusual cities saw it as an opportunity to partner with local bloggers who have an international reach.
This year TBG plans to do the same in some of the most beautiful, yet less trafficked regions in the country after facing a difficult year.
“Blogging as a company has suffered tremendously and if people don’t travel again, then only can we see improvements,” added Sergeeva.
The past year in particular was marked by human losses and economic turmoil. The pandemic shock has certainly devastated the global travel sector, especially in a country like Greece.
Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product and employs more than 900,000 people, or a fifth of the workforce.
Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis recently announced that Greece would open its borders on May 14th. All visitors who have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 can travel to Greece this summer.
This triggered a relief of sighs nationwide – especially in the tourism sector, where revenue fell by 78.2 percent and arrivals by 77.2 percent in the first nine months of 2020.
After the announcement by the minister, hotel booking rates skyrocketed, with some hotels already reaching a capacity of 70 percent in the months of May and June.
“Since the Greek tourism minister announced that the country will open its borders on May 14th, I’ve noticed an increase in my blog traffic from German-speaking travelers, especially from Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” TBG’s Sergeeva told Skift.
After the pandemic’s downtime to delve even deeper into Greece’s less popular destinations and venues, TBG is more than ready for the sector’s comeback, according to Elena.
“We have already started talks with several destinations in Greece and are planning a preliminary travel plan. As soon as the government officially announces the opening dates, we can quickly adjust our plan,” said Sergeeva.
When coronavirus brought global travel to a standstill this month last year, the European Union was faced with a situation unprecedented in its modern history.
What began as a 30-day border closure on arrivals from the Schengen area and non-EU countries grew into a series of endless lockdown measures that exposed a lot of discord between EU members.
Despite the slow roll-out of vaccinations by the block, the EU has unveiled a Covid passport that will allow easy travel this summer to support the stressed-out tourism sector. This would allow vaccinated and unvaccinated people who tested negative for Covid-19 to move about freely.
Destinations like Greece and Portugal have announced that they will be open to tourists in May.
Next week, the heads of state and government of the EU will meet for a heated debate about which rights should be included in the Covid certificates, for example to ensure that those who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated are not discriminated against.
“Maybe it will be some time before we get back to the same volumes we saw in 2019, and maybe we will never go back to the same volumes – only time will tell,” Sergeeva said.
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Photo Credit: Some of the most rustic Mediterranean homes are in the Greek Papingo Village in Epirus. Elena Sergeeva, blogger