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Fresh ideas in support of cultural tourism in Greece

27 March 2012 / 21:03:19  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

Greece is a world famous tourist destination and its politicians often say that tourism is "the heavy industry" of the country. Athens is where Democracy was born and actually resembles a large open-air museum, where some of the most beautiful works of antiquity can be seen. Is this enough to attract modern tourists for whom a vacation is not only taking pictures but experiences too? At a conference on "Cultural entrepreneurship: creative side of business" experts gave answers to the question of how to modernize the cultural tourism of the country.

"Over the past 15 years, there has been a decline in the percentage of tourists travelling due to an interest in getting acquainted with the history of a place, which was especially popular in the last century. Their place was taken by the so-called creative travellers, who are seeking modern experiences, not just to experience the ancient culture," said Panagiotis Markantonatos, an expert on issues of culture and tourism. One of the most interesting facts he mentioned was that Greece is not really among the leading countries in the field of cultural tourism.

According to him, modern tourism strategy must relate to the introduction of the culture of a specific place in conjunction with its present, and totally devoid of staged authenticity. "One example is a tavern in the port of Heraklion in Crete. It "advertises" the famous Cretan diet with a bearded man who offering customers a pizza called "Hawaii". Equally ridiculous are tavern dancers in folk costumes and Queen Amalia’s urban clothing, dancing sirtaki."

The expert stressed that the target should be sustainable tourism that respects the local community and the site itself, also in terms of the number of visitors.

"In the period 2000 – 2003, there was a decline in tourism in Athens. Then in 2004 – 2007, things improved slightly and according to commentators this was mainly due to the Olympics. In 2008 – 2011, the decline was even greater, because domestic tourism decreased too due to the crisis."

According to the expert, it is necessary to highlight modern sites that might attract visitors and, especially, fans of urban tourism. "The so-called city breakers visit the destinations during the weekends – for two nights and one day. They are mostly young people from Europe. We must offer them new and interesting things such as major European capitals offer them."
Panagiotis Markantonatos stressed the importance of nature around Athens. Ecological tourism is also an undeveloped opportunity today. "It is not necessary for more people to come. Athens has its admirers. We must focus on increasing the amount spent by them and on extending their stay." According to the expert, it is necessary to offer thematic routes that may be associated with visits to cultural sites, for others to offer more and different things, and thirdly - something very specific, such as the equilateral triangle formed by the three temples: the Acropolis, the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio and the Temple of Athena in Aegina.

Nikos Ververidis presented his innovative platform for the development of tourism in the Aegean islands. "This is about an open air museum that will aim at connecting the East and the West."
The idea is to connect through cultural cooperation the Greek islands with the Turkish coast, which in recent years, has been attracting millions of tourists. In May 2013, the main part of the programme called Aegeanale will be held on nine islands of the Cyclades group, North and South Aegean. "Famous artists from abroad will come to Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Rhodes, Kos, Symi, Chios, Lesbos and Samos, where they will create their permanent works in the open. They will remain there and will be the new sites that will attract new visitors. The artists will come and live on the island for at least a month to get acquainted with the local culture. Then, they will create their works using materials typical of the region."

Greece is in crisis now and this is posing some difficulties to the development of any business. However, this is not true for Nikos Ververidis. His project is funded by private organizations and his partnership with the local administration is  playing an important role. According to him, the response from the Turkish side is more than good and there is collaboration with the cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Ayvalik and the area of ​​Gyumuzluk to Bodrum.

The forum was organized by the Business and Innovation Centre in Attica, the goal of which is to provide comprehensive support to companies from the private and public sectors, aiming at increasing their competitiveness in the marketplace and improving their efficiency through innovative initiatives. The coordinator of the European programme "Incubators for enterprises operating in the field of culture" presented its results after its implementation in European countries of the Mediterranean in the period 2009-2011. The programme was to assist small- and medium-sized companies with activities related to art and culture.


Tags: EconomyCompaniesCultural tourismStrategyEcological tourismAthens
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