The 81st Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) opened its doors to the public on September 10 at the Thesssaloniki International Exhibition Centre (HELEXPO) and will run through September 18 under the slogan "...and on we go!!!" sending a message of growth and optimism. Attracting thousands of visitors every year (210,000 last year) the event is a timeless symbol and a point of reference for Thessaloniki and Northern Greece, as well as for the entire country. The Fair is an institution that has become synonymous with the economic and cultural history of Greece and with the course of Thessaloniki through time.
This year’s Fair is the largest of the last five years in terms of exhibitor numbers (over 1,000 exhibitors) and exhibition space covered, while it coincides with the celebration of the event’s 90th anniversary (1926-2016): “90 years as part of the city’s – and the country’s – economic life, 90 years of helping Greek companies find a footing in the domestic and international economic scene and come of age as businesses” as Tassos Tzikas, Chairman of TIF- Helexpo points out. It is worth mentioning that this year is the first time that 42 Chambers of Commerce and Industry from all around Greece will be participating, thanks to an initiative by the Union of Hellenic Chambers.
In the context of its 90th anniversary, the 81st TIF aims to mark the beginning of a new era, enriching the Fair with thematic exhibitions that cover a broad range of interests, ranging from technology and the primary sector, to entrepreneurship and nutrition-gastronomy, as well as with celebrations and recreational events that include daily concerts, theatrical happenings and cultural actions.
Apart from the broad participation of exhibitors, the most striking element of the 81s TIF is its internationalization, as major foreign markets are giving TIF their vote of confidence through their national participation. Specifically, there are 18 official state participations (as compared to 14 in 2015), namely from Cyprus, Iran, Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg, South Africa, Armenia, Indonesia, Uruguay, FYROM, Bulgaria, Romania, India, Italy, Tunisia, Egypt, Russia and Turkey.
Moreover, after four years, the institution of “Guest of Honour“ is returning, with Russia dynamically playing this role, covering 3,000 m2 of exhibition space with enterprises representing the sectors of agricultural production and processing, food, energy and industry. Furthermore, a Greek-Russian Business Forum titled “New impulse to trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Greece” was held on September 10, with the aim to explore the prospects for cooperation between the two countries. This is a particularly positive and 'loud' message on paving the way for strengthened financial ties between Greece and Russia.
Last but not least, it is worth noting that ever since Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos paid a visit to the event in 1928, the Fair has acquired a political aspect that is retained to this day.
PM Alexis Tsipras presents road map to the future
Following the tradition, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras - in his opening remarks of the 81st TIF's inauguration speech - presented a road map to the future: “We usually say we are at a turning point. I will say that this year's Thessaloniki International Fair is held at the point where our economy is turning. Because we are exactly at that point where our economy is changing from a negative trend of a seven-year recession to positive growth rates […] Figures so far show that budget revenues are surpassing targets, putting an end to any talk of possible additional measures. The country's GDP grew in the second quarter by 0.2 pct and all estimates show that we return to positive growth rates in the second half of 2016 […] We can achieve the goal of a new Greece by 2021 if we join forces to create new wealth and ensure that this wealth will be distributed fairly […] A Greece of social justice, equality, democracy and transparency. This is our strategic goal - to become an equal among equals in a 21st century Europe. In a Europe where we fight to change its orientation. A Europe where the people - and not technocrats - will have the biggest say”.
Moreover, on the second day of the Fair, a customary Prime Minister’s press conference was held, with the Secretariat General for Information and Communication having set up a Press Center for Greek and foreign journalists who wished to attend it. Addressing the conference, PM Tsipras noted that Greece is "an oasis of stability" within a large destabilized region. Commenting on the public debt, he stressed that "it is a problem that has an international dimension, because the solution to this problem will play a decisive role for growth in the European economy, which in turn determines the global economy".