Zoning seeks to boost tourism

The government released yesterday a proposal for introducing land zoning regulations which could lead to the construction of leisure and retirement villages which could attract major investment to the country’s tourism sector. The Environment Ministry made public a 10-part proposal that outlines what facilities can be built in each district, helping get rid of «gray» areas that have been riddled with bureaucracy. The proposal is seen as paving the way for the construction of new tourism projects in leisure fields that focus on different sectors, such as sports and cultural activities. The plan aims to improve the competitiveness of tourism, protect and secure natural resources, and form a more precise legal framework for land-planning purposes, said Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias. Among the changes put forth is allowing the building of facilities in uninhabited areas and the construction of dwellings as close to 50 meters from the shore in some parts of the country. The proposal is based on a similar model introduced in Spain. «Around 1 million Europeans are interested in acquiring a second residence in Greece. Spain has 1 million of these homes,» Souflias added. Industry experts have often pointed to Greece’s insufficient legal framework as acting as a deterrent to large-scale investments in the sector. Experts were mixed in their reaction to the news, with opponents saying that the Spanish model resulted in the overdevelopment of coastal areas and the exhaustion of natural resources without any consideration of their long-term use. Others said it will help to transform the country’s vital tourism industry and offer more attractive investment potential. Stavros Andreadis, the president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), described the plan as being positive as it encourages the development of alternative forms of tourism. It is also the first time that a plan refers to government obligations in terms of the ports and other infrastructure projects that need to be provided, Andreadis told Kathimerini.