Current Affairs

Urban Revitalization & Green Meetings: A City With A Social Conscience

3rd September 2021

Many associations are looking for the formula that will help them continue offering their members best practices and knowledge while also contributing to sustainable growth. Meeting destinations have a major role to play in this race as conferences move outside of closed spaces and look for ways to engage the entire city to leave something good behind in their host community. Athens offers solutions from the city’s long history of living outdoors. Recently it has taken action to respond to the new needs for sustainable business events while also working to improve quality of life and experiences for citizens and visitors alike.

Words Vicky Koffa

Athens is ready for the future of business events and tourism. The This is Athens convention bureau has examined the changes brought by the pandemic and already taken key steps toward the future of the meetings industry. 

In fact, the City of Athens embarked on a journey toward green meetings long before the start of Covid-19 lockdowns and is now reinforcing social responsibility and sustainability with several bold initiatives. For the meetings industry, the goal is to invest in building a sustainable city in which big international events can benefit the host community and help create a better future.

Residents at the Center of Social Responsibility Initiatives 

One of the most important and long-term strategic goals adopted by the municipality is to increase participation by individual residents and organizations in municipal projects. These efforts should enhance the visibility and impact of initiatives for social equity and sustainability by bringing more partners and stakeholders to the table,” says Vangelis Vlachos, CEO of Athens Development & Destination Management Agency

For example, the “Adopt Your City” program has made it possible to have close multisectoral collaboration between public and private sector partners. The program has helped the City of Athens to mobilize private philanthropy and corporate sponsorship to renovate or create public parks and squares throughout the city. This means that more green areas and open spaces are being created with costs undertaken by local firms, an excellent sign of growing economic strength that is all about boosting sustainability and laying the groundwork for a circular economy. On the level of individual engagement, the award-winning platform Synathina helps the city to support projects started by residents and neighborhood groups in order to scale up their impact, giving them access to resources and a channel to interface with the municipality. 

Such activities are helping build the road to a better future. Athens makes sure to measure their impact and is always looking for new ways to reach their goals. “Through engagement exercises like the destination assessment carried out by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), tourism stakeholders of all kinds and sizes are brought into conversation about the future of tourism to help them adapt to new market realities and the municipality’s sustainability goals,” continues Vlachos.

The Benefits For Associations: Beyond the Conference Center

The Athens city center is undergoing a long-term urban regeneration with parks and fountains created and restored all over the city. Squares, streets, and sidewalks will become more accessible and Lycabettus Hill and the National Garden – two major landmark attractions and “urban lungs” in the center of Athens will be restored. A new athletics stadium and a neighboring park will transform the formerly run-down area of Eleonas. 

Delegates will enjoy the city’s new look and will have the opportunity to contribute to the city’s sustainability goals. The strategy promoted by the This is Athens team prioritizes green meetings and actions that guide stakeholders toward sustainability goals. “During the pandemic, Athens has provided local tourism and business events industries with special training on Sustainable Sales Strategies, Green Meetings and the new normal of the post-Covid era. Furthermore, we are including a whole new section on our website with information about sustainability and innovative practices in the city and the tourism sector,” says Vlachos.

Even the hands-on activities suggested for delegates are eco-friendly, utilizing local staff, ensuring inclusivity, and promoting the circular economy. Local initiatives already designed by the Athens team include ‘Shediart Upcycling Workshops’, ‘The Bike Project’ and ‘Tailor-made Aid Box’ are all meant to develop the spirit of social responsibility that runs throughout conferences in Athens.

Getting closer to its goal for prosperity for all by 2030, Athens is focusing on several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major investments are also starting in energy efficiency and upgrades to sanitation and waste collection systems.

The Intangible Value Of Athens

The Greek capital combines this ambitious investment program with its forward-thinking heritage to create a dynamic knowledge ecosystem. Intellectual capital and world-leading expertise in fields like pharmaceuticals and logistics are adding value to these efforts – and to business events, of course – by connecting meetings and events to clusters of academics, researchers and businesses. A booming digital economy, a high level of education, and a flexible business landscape have created a thriving startup scene. A new generation of entrepreneurs has started to come forward. 

An excellent example is the film industry. “Following the rapid growth of the audiovisual sector in Greece and especially in Athens, a number of industries that act as service providers in the movie industry had an opportunity to grow,” says Vlachos. “Transportation and the hospitality sector suffered much less from Covid restrictions as the large number of actors and filming crews helped these sectors to grow. On top of that, a lot of new jobs were created for the residents.”

Athens has all the ingredients necessary to build back better and offer a sustainable alternative to the past, with social responsibility and respect for the environment and the community. 

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