A draft law covering thematic and special interest tourism, the upgrade of tourism training and the strengthening of entrepreneurship in tourism has been tabled in Greek parliament.
Based on the guidelines of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and under the title “Thematic Tourism and Special Forms of Tourism”, the draft law, aiming to modernize the institutional framework covering tourism and tourism education, and regulate tourism entrepreneurship, is divided into two sections: the first defining forms of special interest tourism and how these are established as products, and the second setting out the terms for the upgrade of the current institutional framework. Other provisions include alterations to ways of operation and licensing of tourist agencies.
During her presentation of the bill in parliament recently, Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said it was the “first integrated institutional framework for the development, organization and supervision of professional activities and entrepreneurship in thematic tourism introduced in Greece, opening up new horizons in the development of tourism.” The minister added that Greece was “creating a new big opportunity for tourism, which will boost employment, increase revenue, and generate economic and development benefits for all”.
More specifically, the 19-article bill defines thematic and special interest tourism by category, details the certification procedures required and sets the terms of operation.
Indicatively some of the changes or new provisions include:
– the division of rural tourism into five categories: agrotourism, wine tourism, ecotourism, geotourism and fishing tourism.
– sports tourism is divided into sports event tourism and recreational & adventure tourism with businesses active in these areas needing a special sticker for operations. The ministry is also introducing a special five-year athletic tourism label.
– In the area of gastronomy, businesses in food and beverages services will be able to obtain a Greek Cuisine Label certifying quality and standard of services and products.
– With regard to conference tourism, once the bill is passed into law, individuals besides tourist offices will be able to organize such events as well as relevant associations and federations.
– Health tourism and its registry meanwhile, will be overseen by Greece’s main healthcare provider, the National Organisation for Healthcare (EOPYY) instead of the tourism ministry. At the same time, thermal spring treatment centers will be required by law to have on-the-spot medical facilities.
– In the cases of cultural and religious tourism, a real estate tax will be imposed.
– The bill also foresees changes to the establishment of tourist offices. Under the provisions a) tourist agencies can now organize thematic or special interest activities as well as provide tourist guide services b) foreign nationals or interests based in third countries can offer tourism services in Greece as long as these partner with a tourist office based in Greece c) tourism services providers are no longer required to set up branches in or near destinations of operation d) a 3,000-5,000 euro fine will be imposed in the case of unlawful sale and distribution of tickets.
– In terms of transport, under the provisions of the draft legislation, the transfer of tourist agency customers with privately-owned cars and driver, provided transfer is within travel itinerary is allowed free of charge.
The draft law went into public debate in June, and included the participation of Greek tourism bodies and associations and the cooperation of 14 relevant ministries.