Due to the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, a somewhat disparaging attitude towards tourism is taking shape in Greece (it is a kind of “monoculture”, it is vulnerable to external shocks, it is a mainly seasonal activity, etc.). All these are well-founded concerns, but we must not forget that on the other hand tourism has many advantages: natural competitive advantages, rich cultural heritage, organised infrastructure, etc. And of course tourism makes a significant contribution to both GDP and employment.
So we need a medium-term tourism strategy, as key component of a more holistic growth strategy in the direction of the knowledge economy, which will upgrade, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, tourism’s contribution to the Greek economy.
The mass tourism market is global and very competitive. The “Global Value Chains” and “Global Production Networks” approaches help us identify the key players in the tourism value chain that determine how it is organised. Tour Operators or online brokers in particular have enormous power as they have direct access to the end consumer.
Therefore, the main goal for Greek tourism should be to improve its bargaining power against these key players and gradually gain direct access to the market, so that a much larger part of the tourist expenditure finds its way to the local and national economy. Other major problems of tourism should also be addressed, suchas low per capita tourist expenditure, seasonality, its limited synergies with the local and national economy, its vulnerability to external impacts, itshigh geographical concentration, etc.
No doubt, Greece must continue to attract a large number of tourists, but it is essential to abandon the outdated “mass tourism” model by improving the quality of services and infrastructure, highlighting, promoting and protecting the country’s main comparative advantages, namely its natural, folklore and cultural capital.
This can be achieved through: product and services diversification (cultural, medical, religious tourism etc.); the development of synergies within the tourism industry but also with the wider economy; attracting people fromother countries to come to live and / or work (mainly remotely) in Greece (e.g. retirees and mainly highly qualified people), etc.
In terms of public policy agenda, what should be prioritized is the need to upgrade the infrastructure and the primary health care provided in tourist areas, the education provided in the tourism sector (schools of tourism professions, tourism departments in universities, etc.) and the fight against undeclared work in the sector, etc. As for the liquidity (loans, guarantees, special credit lines etc.) directed to the private sector, it should aim to place tourism activity into the value chain, strengthen product diversification and increase synergies with the local and national economy, etc.
* Analysis (abstract) by Lois Labrianidis, Professor University of Macedonia, former Secretary General for Private Investments- Ministry of Economy & Development