ECONOMY

Greek tourism seen to be in need of change in strategy

The effective absence of the necessary zoning planning, the serious instability of the existing zoning framework for tourism businesses and weaknesses in applying a well-planned strategy for development in the sector impede the construction in Greece of modern installations by well-established and reputed international groups, a study by Alpha Bank has concluded. According to the study, ventures that are now being undertaken with considerable delay and include improvements to the country’s tourism services by specialized firms (organized beaches, marinas and resorts) are meeting with various reactions. Everyone seems to accept the need for extending the tourism season but react against or bring impediments to the creation of large tourism enterprises and projects that would increase the range and supply of services, the study notes. It is for this reason that investment in alternative forms of tourism is still at relatively low levels. Largely, tourism policy is aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises of the «mom and pop» type. Large projects, in contrast, are impeded with the use of arguments about the risk of destroying the natural environment, or with time-consuming bureaucratic procedures. To be sure, it is the extensive unplanned construction in many tourist areas which also lack the necessary infrastructure that causes a deterioration in conditions, particularly during peak periods, and in the natural environment. Characteristic examples cited are the unchecked construction near archaeological sites and protected areas, the abandoning or even destruction of important monuments of the country’s modern history, and construction in areas of exceptional natural beauty, many of which are included in the Natura 2000 network. According to the study, the further development of Greek tourism requires a change in strategy with the following aims: – The forthright application of a zoning plan for tourism development. – Attracting multinational hospitality groups of a satisfactory size as well as direct access to the main markets where Greece draws its visitors. – Encouraging small and mid-sized businesses to invest in modernization. – Bolstering the country’s international tourism promotion campaign to also target alternative forms of tourism. – Comprehensive programs for improving the country’s ferry and air transport services. – Boosting cooperation with neighboring countries toward developing joint packages.