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New Tourism Zoning Plan

Government last month introduced a draft proposal for the introduction of land zoning regulations for the tourism sector. The plan, if accepted and passed, is expected to lead to the construction of leisure and retirement villages, which could attract major investment to the country’s tourism sector.

Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias made public the 10-part proposal and said that it outlines what facilities can be built in each Greek district (leisure, sports, cultural) and that the plan would make clear where and under what circumstances these facilities could be constructed.

Also, he said the plan aims to improve the competitiveness of tourism, protect and secure natural resources, and form a more precise legal framework for land-planning purposes. Industry experts have often pointed to Greece’s insufficient legal framework as acting as a deterrent to large-scale investments in the sector.

The building of facilities in uninhabited areas and the construction of dwellings as close to 50 meters from the shore in some parts of the country are just two of the changes proposed by the new zoning plan.

“Around 1 million Europeans are interested in acquiring a second residence in Greece,” Mr. Souflias said. Opponents of the proposal stress that the plan is based on the Spanish model and that this model has resulted in the overdevelopment of coastal areas in Spain and the exhaustion of natural resources without any consideration of their long-term use.

Those in favor of the plan said it would help to transform the country’s vital tourism industry and offer more attractive investment potential. Stavros Andreadis, the president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, described the plan as being positive as it encourages the development of alternative forms of tourism.

He said that the plan could spectacularly expand the development prospects of Greek tourism. Mr. Andreadis praised the government’s attempt to tackle the issue of demolishing or withdrawing old tourism installations, as well as the controlled development proposals for sensitive areas. However, he did call for the consultation with the bodies directly involved in tourism before the proposal was finalized.

Gerasimos Fokas, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, said that the new plan in its present form was made public without the consultation with the bodies concerned. He added that a large part of the plan concerns organizing the operation of the tourism sector and is not about organizing the land.

Environment Minister Souflias said at a later date that the draft tourism zoning plan should be passed within three months. With regard to tourism housing and the model promoted, Mr. Souflias emphasized the clauses, which will avert the problems created in other countries due to uncontrolled growth.

And with regard to criticism about the lack of consultation on the bill, he said a committee would be set up that would review proposals by all bodies concerned and submit them for consideration to the environment ministry.

Separetly the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers has highlighted the need for the legalization of hotel units with outstanding town-planning issues. A great number of hotels operate in Greece today without licenses, or without one that covers all their installations.

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