ECONOMY

Why is tourism still suffering?

Tourism is a sectorof great importance to the Greek economy, with its direct overall contribution to the country’s GDP standing at 18.2 percent, according to data provided by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE). Furthermore, data show that income from tourism accounts for $1,200 dollars per resident. Tourism also provides great employment opportunities. In 2005, as many as 838,250 positions were held by tourism professionals and staff, which translates into 19.1 percent of the country’s total work force, while SETE estimates that one job position is created for every 30 arrivals. An historical overview of the country’s tourism may provide a lot of interesting data, such as that arrivals grew from 5.3 million in 1980 to 15.4 million in 2005. However, one of the two major problems facing Greece is the alteration of the country’s natural and traditionally structured environment. This is primarily the result of uncontrolled and shortsighted building and the tourism development model that has been adopted in recent decades. A second serious problem involves the degradation of the tourism product itself, which is the result of the aforementioned changes, also bringing with it numerous other effects. One such impact regards the «sale» of the country’s tourism product at increasingly lower rates, resulting in less income. Even though Greece is a country with unique natural gems, including the sun, sea, modern and ancient sights, these are being «liquidated» at cheaper prices. And this sounds paradoxical, although fully explicable, since such goods should be priced much higher. The tourism model observed in Greece results in damaging such products’ real essence (which also relates to our domestic quality of living) and, seen in strictly economic terms, this model is soon to come to a deadlock. New tourism growth model Owing to such conditions, Greek tourism is thought to be driven to dependence on a segment of the global tourism market that is extremely susceptible to tourism product price changes compared to other competitor countries’ prices. Greek tourism is also dependent on major tour operators, nowadays in a position to easily impose their own terms. In short, this means that Greece continues to draw low-budget visitors, while at the same time higher overall income from tourism is completely seasonal. The current tourism development pattern is characterized by mass tourism, low-quality service, uncontrolled development of accommodation, all of which negatively effect Greece’s famed picturesque landscapes and villages. Tourism experts see the tourism problem as an essentially political one, meaning that to do away with the current model and replace it with another – one that would show respect for the country’s natural and historical resources, pricing them higher – would have to be some government’s decision to butt heads with extensive, strong, but short-term, private interests.