By Iphigenia Moraitini Patriarchea
- “All you want is Greece”. Why and how?
Along with all its problems, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to reset the counter, realign with the principles of sustainable tourism and make extensive use of digital tools—to benefit everyone and create new thematic special interest tourist products and services, offered comfortably and easily.
All you want is Greece, because, how could you not?
- People will always come to Greece in their search for Antiquity; an experience which is both profoundly personal, and communal in that it ties with the average Greek’s perception of the ancient world. What sort of experience should they have?
The beauty of Ancient Greek history is that it’s everywhere and in everything, as anyone who joins an ancient Athens sightseeing tour will quickly realize! Taking a walking tour of Ancient Athens, strolling through Plaka and Monastiraki… or go beyond the capital to Ancient Greece’s imposing temples, striking citadels, and iconic monuments. Attend a performance at a preserved ancient theatre. From the oracle at Delphi to the site of the original games at Olympia, to enter the world of the classics is to be transported millennia back in time.
So what sort of experience should they have? Like you said, it’s personal. Whatever they seek.
- Let’s talk about the Greek Diaspora: Are we “tourists”?
The Greek Diaspora is in a class of its own in many ways; we do refer to “ethnic tourism” when discussing people visiting friends and relatives (or, VFR), but we also consider it an entirely different form of travel, which acts as a catalyst for economic and sociocultural development as well as being far, far more resilient than others.
A VFR traveller also interacts with Greece in a completely different way, participating in activities more traditionally associated with locals, not visitors. And of course he profits from the decreasing costs of international travel the most.
So no, the Greek Diaspora are not “tourists”, but “travellers”. Aren’t we all, in a way?
- Every organization has a “user 0”—the average person for whom the product is meant. Who is Greece’s “tourist 0”?
Tourism as you know is a major contributor to Greek economy and a sector of rising competitiveness at global level. At present, Greece’s strategy focuses on:
Prolonging the tourist period
Promoting the country’s international appeal
Increasing the volume and reach of foreign tourists
Strengthening domestic tourism.
But in order for this to have a positive impact only, we also bank on tourists following the global trend: becoming more environmentally sensitive, and more interested in qualitative elements of a particular destination: elements such as air quality, improved water and waste management, preserving local charm and traditional ways of life, sourcing food locally and so much more.
So… who is tourist 0? A responsible, curious visitor, travelling with an open mind and a sense of wonder, looking for singular experiences we can provide: culture, gastronomy, sports, rural tourism, as well as sheer physical and mental wellbeing!
- How has the covid pandemic affected the Greek tourism industry -and your plans for it- thus far?
While it is true that the pandemic caused and continues to cause a great economic downturn, it also gave us the opportunity to strategically improve the Greek tourist sector, most especially the connection between environment and tourism. The GNTO strongly believes that creating a positive environmental footprint is a key factor for our future!
While sustainability was always going to be the driving principle of any rethink, global trends are also supporting our drive towards reducing seasonality and diversifying beyond the traditional sea, sun and Antiquity, which have historically been the drivers of Greek tourism: ecotourism, folk art, cultural events and excellent hospitality services are of critical import.
Green investments, upgrading marinas, creating cultural pathways and improving winter infrastructure have been happening, and need to continue. There is major interest in strengthening Greece’s wellness related capital, founded in the internationally recognized value of Greek nutrition and holistic lifestyle.
As a final word, the GNTO used the pandemic to improve its reliance on data. A more data driven tourism sector, with good digital underpinnings are essential in achieving our goals.
- What does the future look like? You were recently heard advocating sustainable tourism growth and responsiveness to global trends, as well as diversification. What do these words mean in practice, for Greece, in the covid and post-covid era? And must one wait until after COVID is past us to implement them?
No. This is a critical juncture for the travel industry, and we strongly believe that waiting until the COVID era ends would be a mistake- a terrible decision in both moral and business terms.
We are working in an environment with continuous competition, high demands, which is very important for the future of our country.
It is by developing the three qualitative pillars of our tourism that we will be prepared for the next step: environmental economics, social activity, digital activity. Mass tourism will still exist, of course, but we are betting on quality as the key to our wellness and prosperity.
- What metrics or other means are best for estimating the impact of tourism on Greece’s society and economy?
Good question. I actually shared my thoughts on this at the UNWTO’s 66th workshop, in Athens!
At the present time, old systems are pervasive and form a major roadblock towards getting results and making improvements, especially on a local scale. We are currently in a great phase of digitization, which we believe will lead to exponential gains in terms of metric indicators, as well as time and money.
So please, ask me again in a year or two.
- A. Articles about you name you as “architect, actress, model, politician, mother, and wife”. If you had a choice, in what order would you place the above occupations, and why?
There is really no order. I am all those things, and all those things are me.
B.The same articles clarify that your role is to “shake things up”. In your opinion, what is it about you that does that?
Intention. I’ve said it before—I aim to be a Shaper, using vision to inspire and promote change. It is the only way to turn obstacles into exciting challenges and bravely push on when others feel like quitting.
- “Here is to strong women: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them”. What does this saying mean to you?
It reminds me how proud and grateful I am to be a Greek woman, wife and mother, and calls on every one of us to raise the bar for those who will come next.