OPINION

State obstructing tourism expansion

The latest figures on tourism in northern Greece are very encouraging. The economic recovery in the nearby former communist states has created a large middle class with sufficient incomes for holidays on Greece’s beaches. The sharp increase in arrivals from Russia and the Balkans reminds us that there is a huge market north of our borders, millions of potential tourists who want to visit. Unfortunately, this tourism potential is obstructed by our dysfunctional state mechanism, from delays in issuing the visas required by the Schengen treaty, to the obtuseness of our consular officials and the lack of infrastructure at border crossings. These are problems that certainly discourage many of our northern neighbors from visiting us. There is much talk of tourism development as an economic strategy. Particularly in northern Greece, which is losing its industries, holidaymakers from Russia and the Balkans might be the best solution to economic stagnation. Tourism could be the way to revitalize the region and replace many jobs that are being lost as industries move out. There is a market of millions of potential visitors in the countries north of our borders. Despite certain weaknesses, Greece’s tourist destinations are equipped with broad infrastructure, but unfortunately the state’s services are standing between the supply of and demand for tourism facilities. So the government has a duty to minimize the obstacles raised in visitors’ way, while still respecting the terms of the Schengen treaty. For tourism, particularly in northern parts of Greece, is not just a strategy for the future, it is a vital need of today.