Robert Duglin: US tourism in Greece will grow dramatically due to ASTA conference

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Robert Duglin: US tourism in Greece will grow dramatically due to ASTA conferenceMore than 500 US tour operators who will be present at the ASTA conference will transfer their Greek experience hundreds of times over to professionals and customers when they return home

Interview to Panos Thomakos

The Congress of ASTA, to be held in Athens in April 2018, will dramatically increase the number of American tourists coming to Greece. 

This belief is expressed, in an exclusive interview to Tornos News, by American Society of Travel Agents Vice President and Business Development Manager, Robert Duglin, who visited Athens last week to discuss and eventually accept FedHATTA's invitation to organize Conference ASTA DESTINATION EXPO 2018 in the Greek capital.

As Mr. Duglin points out, more than 500 US tour operators who will be present at the ASTA conference will transfer their Greek experience hundreds of times over to professionals and customers when they return home, a fact that will increase the interest of Americans to elect Greece for their vacations.

Travel agents in the US, as he points out, sell 82% of outbound trips and over 90% of all cruises.

American travel agents will also visit other places in Greece with specially designed tours, so Mr. Duglin expects them to discover new destinations - "hidden diamonds"as he himself describes them - to be promoted in the US market.

"We want for Americans come and stay in Greece for several days," adds Duglin in his interview which follows:

ASTA Vice President for Business Development Robert Duglin talks with Tornos News International Chief Editor Mr. Panos Thomakos

1.   Why did you decide to hold your conference in Greece?

One of the reasons we wanted to hold our conference in Greece is that it is a top destination for Americans. We normally have many customers and colleagues, who will be travelling over here because they are taking a cruise or they want to learn about history. In addition, we have the Greek-Americans, Greek food and wine is very good and when we come to Greece we get to know a different culture, not to mention the attraction of hundreds of beautiful islands.

2.   How many members do you expect to participate?

Around five hundred is the average participation in Destination Expos and we aim to exceed the number.

3.   How is the market this year?

It is up, people in the United States are spending more, especially in luxury travel. This is worldwide and of course it affects Greece, hotels, cruise ships. The economy is good in the States and people are spending more money.

4.   Can Greece attract more American tourists and if so, why?

Yes and for several reasons. Just bringing over 500 Americans who sell travel, they are going to tell their story a hundred more times and that is going to attract more and more people. Travel agents in the US sell 82% of outbound travel and over 90% of all the cruises. This is an important point, and American agents are already sending their clients to Greece, but we want them spend more time in Greece when they visit, not go straight from the plane to the cruise ship and then spend just ten hours in a place like Mykonos or Santorini. We want them to come and stay for several days.

5.   Is there something we must improve to achieve this aim?

I think it is very important that you have attracted Emirates and more nonstop flights like this would be helpful. I see that in Athens, in particular, more hotels now have an online presence and there are more luxury hotels. As long as the tourist infrastructure continues to improve, which it has been doing, Greece may even get ahead of competitive destinations. You need a strong distribution network as well as a variety of products and that is what I am learning here, the different places people can visit, the different types of cruises that are available, charters and other things like that. This conference that we are planning is also very important because it will have parallel educational events that will result in Greece being promoted continuously during the following months. Our agents will not only come for the conference but afterwards they will also visit different places in Greece with specially designed tours so they will discover new products that will extend the season. They will find “hidden gems”, places they did not even know existed.

6.   Can Greece attract investments from the United States?

I think so, yes. That would come with education. It is interesting that you ask that because the Greek-American community is more influential and wealthier than a lot of the other groups and, from the Greek friends that I know, they are interested in expanding to different businesses.

7. Is the Greek government’s decision to impose a stay tax on tourists a concern of yours?

Well, you know, any time you can avoid a tax, you should. I also understand, on the other hand, that taxes are needed to pay for the infrastructure and that things are very difficult right now. ASTA tries to protect and defend travel agents from unfair taxes in the United Stated so I can certainly empathize with the providers here in Greece that this may be a burden.

8. How is your cooperation with FedHATTA going?

Excellent, they are good friends and colleagues. We have been networking and that is what we want to be able to do with your destination, connect it to the American outbound travel agents. We are putting together this meeting and there is nothing better than meeting new friends and spending time together, learning about each other and our families, sharing the our experiences of the destination, this is number one, person to person and also through education, conferences, trade shows, webinars, email broadcasts and one more thing that I would look at is pictures, because as you know there is an old saying that a picture is like a thousand words, and that is especially true for Greece.

9. Have you ever come to Greece before and which places have you visited?

Yes, I have been to Greece six times. I have been to Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Rodos, Kos, Crete and Volos

10. Would you like to comment on the travel ban recently imposed by the Trump Administration?

We have taken a stand against it, because we are afraid it might become a problem. We have done that publicly because we feel that all people should be free to travel. We know we have to keep our country safe, but, on the other hand, we need to keep open borders and the more we understand each other, the better things will be.

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