Is Greece excessively OVERLOADED by foreign tourists?
16 Oct 2018
Greece is currently enjoying a tourism boom, which is partly due to the amazing, diverse and unique landscape, and partly due to the fact that, because of the decline of tourism in neighboring Mediterranean countries, Greece is rapidly becoming a hot value-for-money alternative.
The number of foreign tourists that decide to spend their hard-earned holidays in Greece has doubled over the last 10 years. 2018 is anticipated to surpass the 32 million arrivals, which is an all time high. Taking into account that the indigenous population is 11 millions, there are almost 3 tourists for every greek. In local hot touristy areas like Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete, Kefalonia etc. the ratio is much higher. For example, this year more than 5,5 million people will visit Santorini, compared to a local population of 14 thousand greeks!
This huge influx of foreign tourists has put a tremendous strain on the existing tourism-related infrastructure: hotels, rooms, roads, airports, ferries, restaurants, museums, shops, activities… Existing infrastructure is not properly geared up to accommodating 32 million tourists a year, and as a result quality of service may suffer tremendously. This pulls the brakes on the much needed word-of-mouth, that is so effective when it comes to “advertising and promotion” in the tourism industry. In the era of TripAdvisor, AirBnB, Booking and social networking, consistent low rankings for travel establishments and infrastructure will deter 10 tourists per negative review.
The financial challenge that Greece continues to struggle with, coupled with an attitude of “milking the existing customers”, has put a tremendous strain on the much needed huge investments that are required in order to get the “customer care and ancillary tourism services” up to scratch:
roads, airports and harbors require heavy investment, in order to help foreign passengers reach their destinations with a smile on their face
the same goes for accommodation establishments, when it comes to customer care and quality of facilities offered
commercial establishments, shops and restaurants need to refrain from excessive over-charging, and invest in good quality local suppliers
tours and activities need to diversify into all-encompassing “greek-life” themes, instead of persisting on the traditional “sea & sun & ruins” line
museums and local attractions should offer extensive open-hours, together with a revamped and fresh effort to exhibit every aspect of the greeks’ historical and contemporary life and presence
the “local life” element should become paramount within the “greek tourism” product identity.
The list is endless, and can only be addressed via a collaboration among all the interested parties: central government, regional authorities, professional associations, establishment owners.
Needless to say that tourists should be very vocal and persistent when they come across incidents of either overcharging or bad attitude towards customers. They should raise the issue as soon as it happens, and refuse to either pay ridiculously high prices, or accept anything less that what they bargained for, or put up with unprofessional behavior. That, together with a fact-stating online review on their behalf, is probably one of the best ways of actually helping the local professionals improve upon themselves, while weeding out “cowboys” or “hit and run” individuals with bad attitude.