Quality tourism

The remarks by Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos yesterday on the performance of Greek tourism this year justify some optimism that the reduction in the number of visitors – and revenue – will not be as great as feared at the start of the season. However, his remarks also underscore the local tourism sector’s limited ability to weather occasional drops in global demand. By admitting problems of poor quality and profiteering «in transport, accommodation, food and camp sites» while saying the situation was better at organized hotels as a result of free competition, Tsochadzopoulos effectively acknowledged that the Greek tourism sector is suffering from anarchic development and the thoughtless shift toward mass tourism – two characteristics for which PASOK itself is to blame, of course. Since its industrialization at the time of the military dictatorship, Greece’s tourism has developed on flawed foundations. Little emphasis was placed on attractive buildings, and there was no planning for the role and aesthetic development of various destinations. To this was added PASOK’s broader mistrust of the urban entrepreneurial class. As a result, catering for masses of tourists translated into unchecked construction of rented accommodation, poor services at high prices, entrepreneurial irresponsibility, and, worse, no forethought for town planning and the protection of areas which could have easily been promoted into magnets for high-quality and high-spending tourism. This prevented the tourism sector from wooing a better kind of customer as global conditions changed and cheaper countries like Turkey won a share of budget-conscious tourists that we should long have abandoned as a target group. This is not to say that Greece should, or in fact could, transform itself into a destination for the few and affluent. It should, however, attract larger numbers of relatively well-off visitors wishing to spend their holidays on Europe’s most beautiful shores while taking archaeological and ecological trips or viewing traditional houses at the Zagori villages, on Mount Pelion or at Molyvos. Greek tourism can still change trajectory, provided that businessmen cooperate with the State and that the State furnishes incentives for responsible entrepreneurship. At the same time, it must curb profiteers who have long been tolerated by a so-called democratic mentality that has done great harm to the quality of our tourism.