OPINION

Rethinking tourism

rethinking-tourism

It might seem{BLA_WRD_TXT} out of place, if not downright utopian, to discuss a change of course for the country in the middle of a major crisis in the economy and the tourism sector, and when 49.3% of citizens have told a survey by MRB that they rank unemployment as the first among the country’s five biggest problems.

How can we look for a bright side in estimates that the loss of revenues in tourism for 2020 will come to around 10 billion euros, when tourism was responsible for keeping the job market afloat and for giving a boost to young entrepreneurs. The coronavirus pandemic has scuppered expectations for the Greek summer season; many hotels are choosing to stay shut, as demand is sluggish or even nonexistent in parts.

Faced with an irreversible reality this year – and not just for this country but for every popular European holiday destination – the residents of Venice are choosing to see the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink tourism in its entirety. According to the New York Times, the residents and political leadership of the historic Italian city are seeking to develop a local economy that does not rely entirely on tourism, but succeeds in attracting foreign investors, in bolstering its two universities and in transforming abandoned buildings into environmental research centers.

Having reached the point of receiving 10.2 million visitors in one year, Venice is looking for alternatives to a return to excessive tourism.

I wonder if anyone in Greece is having any similar thoughts with regard to Santorini and Mykonos, or Crete and Rhodes? How will we reverse this reliance on just one source of revenue? How will we make use of our know-how, facilities and infrastructure to create something new and different?

Today it’s the pandemic; tomorrow there may be another unexpected event to remind us how vulnerable our overreliance on tourism makes us – and especially when all other productive activities have come to a halt.

This discussion is neither new nor original. It has been around for years, but it took the violent changes imposed by the coronavirus to shake the Venetians – for example – into looking for other ways to attract foreign investments.

Greece has so many untapped resources. It has natural beauty, but also an abundance of sun and wind. Its culture is not just what you see in the guidebooks. There is an entire country out there that has remained in the shadows, not because it’s weak, but because it has been overlooked.