Greek tourism, despite the serious problems it has and is still facing, is recording significant growth compared to 2010. However, the first picture for 2012 is that it is going to be an exceptionally uncertain year, which will be affected by a possible new international economic recession, the recovery of North African countries, and mainly from whatever picture of a serious and governed-by-law state that is formed for Greece abroad.
Greece is entering a difficult and arduous ten-year period of adjustment, during which it has to turn around its economy, from a soviet-type structure, to a competitive economy of a modern European country. This project, especially for the first three years, is gigantic and requires a national rallying of forces, by putting aside personal, partisan and corporative objectives and ends. Tourism, with a 2021 horizon, can offer nearly half of the country’s future growth (additional 18 billion euro – a total of 50 billion euro per year) and 220,000 new jobs.
In order for tourism to be able to support recovery, a necessary requirement is a specific development proposal based on quality, improvement of competitiveness, increase of employment and balanced regional development. Such a proposal was presented at the Conference by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism in cooperation with SETE. The proposal’s objective is for Greece to rank among the 10 top tourist destinations of the world by 2021.
It is only natural that in a 10-year strategic plan there are several points that require further specification and cooperation with competent ministries or agencies. There are points which must be supported by studies of several hundreds of pages long. Certain quantifications (ports, marinas, etc.) require documentation. Furthermore, updating will be required over a 10-year span. However, the basis that was agreed upon is binding, and is the foundation for controlling everything that precedes the endeavour.
Priorities and measures for Greek tourism could be grouped into 4 categories:
Redifining the commercial policy. Greek tourism must try and maintain its shares in traditional European markets, at the same time adopting a strategy for penetrating emerging markets (Russia and China) as well as the USA market. The commercial policy must seek to change the mix of tourists to the benefit of higher income classes, by upgrading the quality of the “sun and sea” product and its extension with cruises, marine tourism, Integrated Tourism Development Areas (ITDA) and the establishment of Athens and Thessaloniki as destinations for “city breaks”.
Developing quality infrastructures and accelerating investments: Funds could be directed towards creating additional conference centres, infrastructures for yachting tourism and the creation of holiday residences and ITDAs.
Facilitating access and transport. Greece must create additional points of connection with emerging and remote markets, through direct flights, and remove or revise visa procedures (facilitations in the framework of the Schengen procedures).
Radical upgrading of professional skills and know-how. The country needs a tertiary University-level Tourism School with strong international interconnections. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance to reorganise central organisational structures, by creating eight separate operating segments, including among others strategic planning, market and product management, marketing, sales support, evaluation and classification of provided services.
As regards the role of the state, the following points are important objectives:
Organisational and institutional reforms. The issues of tourism sector businesses fall under the competences of multiple ministries and better coordination is required.
Development of a communication strategy by a specialised marketing company to emerge from the cooperation of SETE – Ministry of Culture & Tourism/Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT)
Restructuring of competitiveness parameters
– Stable tax environment, tax rates at the levels of main competitor countries.
– Removal of obstacles that impede the development of competition.
– Fighting crime, establishment of feeling of security.
Finally, the most important conclusion is that during this difficult time, tourism is emerging as a field of convergence and common action between parties. During a period of dividing dilemmas and exceptional uncertainty, the national rallying of forces around the most important pillar of the economy became stronger than ever.