Athens, steeped in history and culture, can’t fail to impress as a destination with the iconic Acropolis towering over the city. What left a bigger impression on event planners on a recent fam, however, was the fact that tourism and infrastructure is largely unaffected by the negative headlines on the country’s financial crisis.
Most planners on the trip, hosted by Aegean Airlines, DMC Event Makers and Pearl Representation, had visited Athens previously, but none too recently. The Greek economy isn’t a new story of course and we were all well aware of reports of queues at ATMs and city protests. Our stay – hosted by Aegean Airlines, Starwood Hotels, DMC Event Makers and Pearl Representation, kicked off with two days in the capital, staying at the Hotel Grand Bretagne and included a tour of the Acropolis and a walk around the historic and bustling neighbourhood of Plaka. There was no sign of any unrest – it’s very much a case of business as usual in Greece.
Costa Navarino, located on a remote corner of southwest Pelopponese, was also a revelation. Journey by car can be long – around three and a half to four hours from Athens depending on the traffic but it’s a scenic route that crosses the Corinth Canal, which separates Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Groups can also fly to Kalamata on the Peloponnese – the capital city of the Messenia region, and an hour’s drive away. However you get there, what greets you at the destination is well worth the effort.
The Navarino Dunes at Costa Navarino is home to two five-star Starwood properties – the 321-room The Romanos, a Luxury Collection property and The Westin Resort, which offers 445 rooms – both have stunning views over the Ionian Sea. The House of Events, which lies between the two hotels, offers 5,000msq of events space, with the Great Hall catering for up to 1,600 people.
Incentive-wise, groups will be spoiled for choice, with two 18-hole golf courses (and a third in the pipeline), cycling trips, spa treatments and team building activities available. You can also visit the extensive ruins of Ancient Messini.
Groups can also visit Navarino Bay and the charming towns of Pylos, Gialova and Marathos (the latter offers some good options for group dining, particularly for those with a love of seafood) and have a picnic lunch at Voidokilia Beach, a stunning stretch of sand in the shape of the Greek letter omega.