Greek Travel and Tourism, Focus on Governmental Support

Greeks protest over $6 billion in wage cuts

Each and every one of these Greek protesters directly affected by tourism

Travel worldwide is a multi trillion dollar industry that employs upwards of 230 million people. For many, it is difficult to grasp markets of such magnitude, numbers in the tens of millions – billions, the scope of operations this market segment represents. It can easily be said that travel and tourism is among the most crucial business activities mankind undertakes.

Understanding this reveals why companies like Google, Expedia, and a host of others want a piece of the travel pie. But seeing the real impact of the business always leads to the individual. Let’s examine this idea effects real people, and how governments like that in Greece could develop better strategies.

The World Travel Tourism Council is the industry’s most trusted organization for analyzing and reporting on worldwide travel statistics. Fantastically elaborate, and highly scientific methods (PDF) and data are gleaned and reported which pretty much detail anything numeric anyone would want to know about the market – and if we look more closely – exactly the human element mentioned above. Not directly mind you, but a the end of T&T statistics and variables affecting Gross Domestic Product, consumer habits, projected travel trends, and a host of other metrics – everyone is affected by this industry. A lot.

The long and short of this discussion is that travel, whether subdued because of economic recovery or booming, can be used as an economic indicator and a tool for growth. More importantly, in the current economic atmosphere, the travel industry for some economies could be a life saver – maybe for all economies. This concept leads to a simple question; “Are governments, policies worldwide, currently optimized to utilize the travel industry as a conduit for recovery?” A big question obviously, and not on easily answered. But perhaps one that should be.

Greek Economic Indicators – Right Focus on Tourism

Looking at Greece as an example of a country, a people, in dire need of a boom industry – it is easy to see the answer to the question above for some countries is “no,” not nearly enough. With people across Greece suffering badly, one of the country’s most lucrative and obviously impactful industries seems relatively forgotten where talk of solutions are concerned. To begin with the incentives for investment in Greece, where the government and key sectors is concerned, is either antiquated and/or ineffectual if not discontinued.

The Investment Incentives Law, the National Strategic Reference Framework of 2007, and the Public Private Partnerships (PPP), quite obviously never worked well in the first place. According to the Invest Greece Agency, the Investment Incentives Law has been suspended as of this year too. The Greek government’s strategies for economic growth for tourism seem largely focused on massive dealings with huge corporate travel entities, with seemingly little or no incentive or mechanism to elevate current sector proprietors.

The land bonanza going on at Messinia, in the Peloponnese, seems a good example of what Greek government has tagged as “Integrated Resorts.”  This Costa Navarino website for Temes, reveals a lot about how development money and projects end up being spent – Starwood and Westin resorts and hotels being the showcased destinations for billionaire Vassilis Konstantakopoulos’ vision for his home region. Not to be too critical here, but I would like to hear Mr. Konstantakopoulos’ vision for Messinia, one of Greece’s cultural end environmental jewels, replete with golf courses and pro shops. Not the ordinary visual of what Greece stands for is it?

Costa Navarino Resort Golf

Costa Navarino Resort Golf – Duffer’s paradise on the Ionian Sea

Just as the Greek government builds roads and infrastructure of Messinia and similar areas to accommodate such real estate induced growth, one has to wonder at the cost effectiveness of spending billions to provide jobs for Messinia’s less than 200,000 citizens? Or am I wrong?

Greek Tycoons Versus Greek Tour Guides

The travel profits for developing such areas of Greece are clearly not earmarked for the preponderance of Greek people, least of all the man or woman on the market in Athens. I hope this picture is clear enough. The point here is – again; “Is government’s role in travel and tourism refined and correct anywhere during these tough economic times?” It simply looks like the travel industry, even as powerful a tool as it could be for economic change, is mismanaged on every level. For a country like Greece, where close to 20 percent of people are directly or indirectly employed, it seems vast resources would be employed to help that industry. And I do not mean helping Club Med type developments either.

The Greek hotel owner, the Greek restaurant owner, the Greek fisherman and his children need their tourism sector revamped. The rich golfer can get all dewy eyed someplace else, until Greece’s priorities are in order. Build Club Med Messinia after the country is a stalwart EU contributor. We don’t have to simply pick on the Greek government here, let alone famous businessmen like Konstantakopoulos. Taking a look at nearly any governmental program to support economic recovery, it is actually easy to see narrow vested interest where growth is concerned. Greece is just a good example because of the clear import of travel on the people there.

Business, government, and especially Greece’s people need to focus in on forward thinking strategies to cure problems – PR and hype claiming Greece is going “green crazy” on everything is pure idol worship. Another indicator that the people are of little interest in the power structure there. But that is a political commentary.

The people and places in Greece are actually one of the world’s great treasures, like so many other places. I get this vision of a hard working American or Canadian, who has always dreamed of going there, finally getting the opportunity – only to find closed markets and shops where once vendors made a living. Ruined archaeological sites – a desperate population.

Carving Up Greece

How sad that would be, but it is already happening. Meanwhile the the Porto Carras Resort, and Sani Resort in Chalkidiki (Chalkidiki has a population of a little over 100,000), Astir Palace in Vouliagmeni, Porto Heli Collection at Argolida, and a host of other planned or ongoing developments show the template for development investment in Greece clearly. The question is; “Would incentives and resources focused elsewhere be more effective for the people of Greece?” At least this is the one I would ask. Instead of rebuilding Greece’s economy it looks more like someone is carving it up.

At the current rate of progress many Greeks may not feel like dancing for some time to come. Therefore, perhaps we had better remember Anthony Quinn and how it is done.

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