Can tourism in Greece be of quality and at the same time respect the environment, natural and cultural, and be aesthetic? This was the central question of the initiative’s opening event “Reimagine Tourism in Greece” by KATHIMERINISwhich took place yesterday at the Lighthouse of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.

Reimagine Tourism in Greece THE DAILY

This question was answered by leaders of the tourism industry, policy makers and experts, who responded with great interest to the invitation of DAILY to discuss the future of tourism but also the challenges and opportunities surrounding the promotion of sustainable tourism practices in Greece.

With the lifting of the restrictions of the pandemic crisis, tourism figures have returned to pre-pandemic levels, confirming that Greece belongs to the top destinations worldwide. However, as the speakers of the event pointed out, the big bet is that this development will continue without the country and especially its top tourist destinations, being altered and losing their genuine character.

Reimagine Tourism in Greece THE DAILY

“As a country we have built a good brand, but we are at a critical crossroads and we must define things for the coming years”, was the message of the new President of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) Yannis Parashis, during the discussion he had with the Director of KATHIMERINI Alexis Papachelas, in the context of the event. Mr. Paraschis emphasized the need for an immediate upgrade of the infrastructure as well as a proper management of the individual destinations of Greece, explaining that in Greece 90% of tourism is distributed in 5 Regions (Crete, South Aegean, Ionian, Western Macedonia and Attica) and not only in the Cyclades. “The bet is that the 40 million visitors that the country is expected to welcome by 2030 will be more fairly distributed, both geographically and seasonally, alongside the implementation of destination management policies by all involved” noted the President of SETE.

“We have submitted to the government, as an Association, our plan for tourism in 2030, which is anything but wishful thinking as it contains many fully documented, understandable and implementable proposals. Specifically, it includes 2,000 actions in relation to tourism and the country in general, covering from waste and energy management issues to water supply and the upgrading of ports and smaller airports”, he added.

Reimagine Tourism in Greece THE DAILY

Key supporters of the “Reimagine Tourism in Greece” initiative of KATHIMERINIS, as Founding Partners, are Aegeanthe Attica Groupthe Fraport-Greece, the Piraeus Bank and others, while also contributing to the effort Athens International Airport. These are groups that play a leading role in the effort of a tourism model that is sustainable and friendly to society.

During the Reimagine Tourism in Greece event, research was presented that documented that tourism is internationally at a crossroads, a paradigm shift, which concerns both travelers and residents of the destinations, as well as businesses in the sector.

Presenting the findings of a survey on how Greeks feel towards tourism, the Director General of the PULSE research company, Giorgos Arapoglou, noted that Greek citizens recognize the importance of tourism but are concerned about its further development in terms of its effects on the environment, the local communities, the character of the destinations but also their ability to take vacations themselves at affordable prices.

On his part, Mr Stefanos Papanikos, Senior Director of Strategy, Business Planning and M&A at Deloitte, presenting the first report on Sustainability Practices in the Tourism Sector noted that only a relatively small percentage of Greek businesses in the tourism sector have already adopted sustainability programs, while a much larger percentage appears to be incompletely informed on this issue. At the same time, most of the time the relevant actions are implemented only if there is sufficient public funding and incentives.

With the “Reimagine Tourism in Greece” initiative, KATHIMERINI, recognizing the importance of tourism for Greece, seeks to contribute to achieving the necessary convergences in order to shape a national vision for tourism. The aim of the initiative is to create a framework of guidelines and actions to ensure the sustainability of the tourism sector and by extension the country, society and the environment. For this purpose, in the coming months, as part of “Reimagine Tourism in Greece”, a Think Tank will be created with experts and personalities of international prestige, who have a wealth of experience and expertise, who will submit their ideas and proposals for optimal course of tourism in the long term. The excellent response of tourism people to yesterday’s inaugural event of the initiative is a valuable resource for the successful continuation of this effort.