Greek tourism has reached a watershed moment this year. It’s not just the unprecedented number of arrivals. We’re heading into a new phase as a tourist destination. We need a plan and we must be careful to avoid major errors so that we can protect the main driver of the country’s economy. Technocrats and representatives of the private sector and the state must create a road map for the next two to three years because this is a critical period. The list of things to be done and decided upon is long.
Let’s start with infrastructure. It’s outrageous in the year 2017, with so much European funding that’s poured in, that important destinations still don’t have proper biological waste disposal. The level of traffic at some tourist hotspots, such as Santorini, is a huge problem. Arbitrary building is also a problem in certain areas run by local and non-local mafias.
There are destinations that require special care. These areas need limits either on the number of visitors or the number of vehicles and ships. Such measures have been tried in other countries. It’s not exactly an original idea. Attention must also be paid to security. Gangs of thieves and drug dealers operate in many areas. The threat of an act of terrorism being committed against a soft target, such as a destination where many Western tourists gather, is also a possibility.
If we’re not mindful, our image as a great holiday destination will be tarnished. Discerning tourists will not return to an island where there are mountains of trash on the streets and their enjoyment of the sunset was spoilt by big groups of visitors pouring off visiting cruise liners.
The aim should be to have quality and sustainable tourism, not record arrivals. Privatized airports will increase arrivals from abroad, but before this happens, let’s be careful of the troubles our neo-Hellenic get-rich-quick culture may bring. Fortunately, a lot of various “whiners” have prevented Greece from going down the same road as Spain, in terms of tourism development. Now we’re again at a crossroads.
Surely with this new data, our mentality as regards tourism will change. Myconos is simply out of reach for the average Greek family now, or maybe the island has transformed into a major offshore company where Greek law does not apply.
Greece is becoming too expensive a destination for its own people. The time when we’d plan holidays at the last minute appears to have ended. We’ve seen what’s happening in Barcelona and in other places where tourism has begun to make some local residents feel like strangers in their own homes. We must not let this happen here. In order to avoid them and have a future in tourism, we should pay more attention to planning and professionalism.