Tourism as a Tool for Regional Cooperation, Development Session Concludes BBSF Forum in Serres

Photo: ANA

Tourism as a primary axis for regional cooperation in the Balkans and Black Sea region dominated the second and last day’s sessions of the inaugural Balkans & Black Sea Cooperation Forum (BBSF), which concluded in northeast Greece city of Serres on Friday.

Most speakers’ main points echoed the UN’s declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, as the session itself was entitled “Cultural & Sustainable Tourism – Cultural Tourism, a key to Sustainable Development”, with both UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai and UNESCO Director-General of Irina Bokova sending video messages.

The Deputy Mayor of Tirana, Brunilda Paskali, briefed delegates over a joint tourism package being promoted in the Japanese market by Albania, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Montenegro and Bosnia. Based on the holiday package, as she said, tourists spend a week in each of the aforementioned countries.

On his part, the president of the Geo Routes Cultural Institute, Giannis Balakakis, focused on what he called the “traditional” tourism models, which for decades were the mainstay in Greece and other regional countries, but which in many cases led to the “all inclusive” phenomenon — whereby local communities reaped little or no tourism revenue but bore the brunt of whatever negative impact.

He added that alternatives to “mass tourism”, such as models emphasizing cultural heritage packages with several destinations included, is an answer to where tourism should be steered in the future.

The managing director of the Thessaloniki International Fair-Helexpo, Kyriakos Pozrikidis, presented the new products that Greece’s biggest exhibition and trade operator is investing in, as well as upcoming conferences and exhibitions organized by Helexpo.

Finally, Ahmet Oguz Demir, the director of the EU Research Center in Istanbul, reminded that in the current digital era consumers can reserve a hotel room with one “click” and at the same time read other travelers’ experiences and critiques.

He noted that citizens should strive to avoid technological “illiteracy’ in order to enjoy more alternatives and choices in terms of the tourism and holiday packages they desire.

The forum was organized by the Geo Routes Cultural Institute (GRCI), under the auspices of various international, European and Black Sea region organizations, in cooperation with the Serres regional unit.

BBSF’s official partner was the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, with strategic partners being the European Bank Federation (EBF), the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR).

The event was supported by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) and its affiliated Praktoreio 104.9 FM radio station.