2010 was an unprecedented year for tourism. The problems of the Greek economy of 2009 were added to the problems which the global economic crisis of 2008 caused in international tourism traffic, including the very bad publicity for our country as a result of everything that happened during the first half of 2010.
In order to support the growth of tourism in the future, tourism must become a key priority of the State. Investments and the support of entrepreneurship in the tourism sector must be included as a key objective in the development law currently being formulated, because tourism has proven in the past that it has comparative advantages and a remarkable development performance, that significantly contribute to the competitiveness and extroversion of the Greek economy.
As regards employment, it must be subsidised, for instance through programs that subsidise social security contributions for employees; however the primary objective must be the promotion of a high quality training for employees.
At the level of public and private sector cooperation, synergies between the Ministry and private tourism bodies must be promoted, for example in the case of the marketing of Greek tourism. Their effective cooperation requires the establishment of an autonomous Ministry of Tourism, with expanded competences and a permanent position of a General Secretary with a five-year term and without partisan affiliations. Coordination at government level is a key objective, with direct supervision by the Prime Minister’s office, as well as cross-party consent on matters relating to the broader tourism sector.
Another important objective is to have EOT evolve towards a Visit Britain – Atout France model, and create a company for the online marketing of Greek tourism and the online sale of exclusively Greek products and services. SETE will submit a specific proposal to this end.
In order to increase the quality demand for Greek tourism, among other things the permanent or seasonal residence of foreigners in tourist destinations of our country must be encouraged, conference tourism must be promoted, cruises must be facilitated and foreign tourists must also be attracted to the mainland and mountains of Greece.
A modern spatial plan for tourism must be put into place soon, placing emphasis on tourist housing in combination with a 5-star hotel infrastructure. Globally, all large chains are turning towards such types of “mixed type” investments. Our country is lacking such investments, as well as exceptional requirements. Other points that require improvement are changing how the minimum building distance from the foreshore is dealt with, with a horizontal mathematical formula reflecting local characteristics. Finally, we should promote a more systematic and substantial approach of what we build and where, under clear terms, and not under the –ex post- Sword of Damocles of the Council of State.
The reforms resulting from the Kallikrates plan, can, and must benefit tourism. The organisation of a functional intervention at regional level is also deemed necessary, i.e. the creation of local Destination Management Organisations.
State financing can alternatively be covered by developing state assets, co-financing infrastructure works with private agencies and encouraging collective participation of businesses in the financing of actions that support tourism economy.
A strategy that aims towards a smaller and more effective state, with the private sector at the same time taking on more responsibilities, must be an initial, but most importantly an informed choice. All parties must come to realise that tourism has no political “colour” and agree on laying down a single tourism strategy, based on SETE’s “Greek Tourism 2020”, study which will be presented in the end of November 2010.
It is evident that the new tourism growth model, the new development model, requires a minimum number of institutional and other reforms. Without doubt there will be reactions by organised narrow interests, old-fashioned perceptions and various other expressions of complacency. The focus on the targets and mainly the political will are the most important conditions for the success of the endeavour.
At the same time, any factor that inhibits the growth of tourism, such as time-consuming bureaucratic procedures when setting up a company as well as any potential effort to increase state revenues through VAT, which in competitive countries is as low as 5-8%. It is noted that the number of people entering the country for recreation purposes is significantly affected by their income and the relevant cost of life – i.e. the relevant prices. Empirical estimates show that the increase of the relevant cost of life by 1% means a long-term decrease of the number of tourists by approximately 3%.
Any decisions and changes to be made by the State must have the direct support of the Greek society. Awareness must be raised among all citizens that tourism is everyone’s business, either directly or indirectly. The deep change in our mentality is that critical factor that will help the true potential of our tourism product to emerge.