With cultural landmarks as the base, country expands its image to tourists

Data and studies have shown that household earnings in areas developed for tourism are higher than in areas not zoned and built for such a purpose. If done correctly, officials say, developing new areas can turn into a boon for small towns struggling to keep young workers who move to cities for jobs. These towns may even attract people from large cities if the opportunities are there. Funds for such development could come from the Fourth Community Support Framework. At the very least, officials say, these places should be built to specifications of quality and aesthetics. In particular, special attention should go to making tourism-related infrastructure flexible. Tourists are not all one and the same; some take family holidays while others may travel for business, entertainment or education. They vary in age, preference and health. Building on culture In one of his speeches on tourism, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis hinted at the reinvention of the industry. «Culture and the natural environment are the foundations on which a modern, high-quality and competitive tourist industry can be built,» Karamanlis said. «They give the country a competitive advantage. This advantage should not be left to chance. In this new age we must act under terms and conditions that protect and upgrade our natural and cultural heritage for the next decades.» Here are a few ways Greece could emerge in this reinvention: Exhibition and conference tourism. Development in this sector could extend the tourist season. Visitors attending a conference or exhibition in Greece could get a taste of the area by sightseeing, planting the seed for a future vacation. Sea tourism. There is much room for development in Greece in this sector, either in yachting or cruise ships. This is a sector that has been sorely neglected, which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in Greek-flagged tourist vessels and the virtual disappearance of cruise ships. With improvements in marine infrastructure there is greater optimism for the sector’s future. Sports tourism. With the successful organization of the Olympic Games, sports tourism has become a hot topic in the industry’s vision of reorganization. Other countries with sports venues and a similar climate could provide ideas as to how to best host teams from all sports disciplines and prepare for training. Scuba diving. Even though an innovative bill (by Greek standards) has been passed facilitating cooperation between the Merchant Marine and Tourism ministries, its provisions have yet to be implemented. Other areas in the world have cultivated this activity to great effectiveness, but Greece has still done little to develop this area. Religious tourism. This is a top priority for development that will boost domestic tourist activity as well as attract visitors interested in Eastern Orthodoxy and early Christianity from abroad. Educational tourism. This can be combined with environmental tourism and be addressed mainly to young people. Agritourism. This can be combined with trekking programs, horse riding and other active or outdoorsy forms of tourism. Also, planning vacations around food and wine has also been emerging in other countries, a development that Greece should follow, officials say. In the last two years, some Greeks have caught on to the trend and have tried to incorporate gastronomy and oenophilia into tourism programs. Spa and health tourism. This has now become a priority in tourism policy. In the next few days a bill will be submitted by the Tourism Ministry to modernize the current spa tourism facilities, which until now were governed by provisions in a law dating to 1920. Health tourism is quite popular in other countries. Specifications are being drawn up in cooperation with the Tourism and Health ministries. Winter tourism. This sector comprises many activities and development has occurred in areas with ski resorts. There is more room for development here with better planning. However, resorts must increase the number of rooms and beds to accommodate tourists.