“A good tourism destination is one where its residents are happy to live there…” – SETE President Yiannis Retsos
The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) on Thursday underlined the importance of destination management for the future of the country’s tourism sector.
While addressing journalists at a press conference, SETE’s president, Yiannis Retsos, said that the confederation’s strategy in 2019 will include the development of synergies and cooperations for the proper management of Greek destinations, which is the key to their sustainable tourism development.
Greek tourism this year is on track to end with more than 30 million tourist arrivals – nearly 33 million counting cruise passenger arrivals – and revenue close to 16 billion euros.
“However, the future of tourism exceeds the number of arrivals and the one-dimensional recording of revenue, but it has to do with its image and the extent to which it is beneficial for a destination and its society. In this context, actions and initiatives are required which will emphasize our commitment to the quality of life of our country,” SETE’s president said.
On the issue of destination management, SETE will aim to undertake initiatives to better inform local communities and also to cooperate with local authorities to identify and work together with them to find solutions to problems that hinder the sustainable tourism development of destinations.
“The efforts of the private sector through investments to provide quality services is not enough. The commitment and support of the central and local governments, as well as active dialogue with the citizens themselves, is required,” he said.
“The promotion of destinations will never stop, but their management is what ultimately will determine their destiny,” Retsos underlined.
Referring to Copenhagen and Amsterdam as examples of cities/destinations with successful management tactics, SETE’s president said that a good tourism destination is one where its residents are happy to live there.
“So, for us, what needs to be discussed in the immediate future is how we will better manage our destinations. How we manage rubbish, utilities, electricity, water, drainage, lighting, cleanliness, city/island friendliness and city/island accessibility,” he stressed.
A big challenge
Referring to destination management as a “big challenge” for 2019 and for the years to come, Retsos said that for Greek tourism’s positive momentum to continue and for travelers to continue visiting Greece, anything that tarnishes a destination’s image must be corrected.
“Right now people want to come to Greece, they like Greece, they find that the quality-price ratio is good or at least acceptable, so we need to reinforce this and see how we will best manage our destinations,” he said.
Referring to the upcoming municipal elections in Greece in May 2019, Retsos said that city candidates should give their view on tourism and inform the voting public on how they intend to improve the destinations they want to run.
“This is what SETE’s actions will be targeting in the next period… The change must start from the citizens, from us. We ourselves have to want these changes and then push for them to happen.”
Adding that improving infrastructure plays a big part in managing destinations, Retsos listed some of the interventions that need to take place on the Greek islands that include improvements to ports and marinas.
“Also, the remaining state airports should also operate under privatized management,” he said, adding that improved regional airports would help boost arrivals in Greece’s lesser known destinations.
High taxation, short-term rentals still remain problems
Retsos also informed that SETE will continue its efforts to help resolve a series of problems that continue to affect tourism businesses, including high taxation that has an impact on the competitiveness of the product; the need to create a new spatial framework for tourism combining development and sustainability; and short-term rentals (Airbnb-type rentals), an issue that has yet to be resolved in regards to taxation and operation rules.
“This is currently being dealt with but it has not been solved… Other countries and destinations have found ways to regulate this market, and Greece should take their best practices as examples and follow them,” he said.
SETE’s president also underlined the need for the sector to introduce incentives to attract new entrants to the labor market in order to reduce the country’s unemployment.
Moreover, Restos said that the upgrading of the quality of the Greek tourism product, that will be achieved through the connection of tourism with the agri-food sector and culture, remains one of SETE’s main goals for the new year. The confederation’s priorities also include interventions for the better tourism education and training for workers and entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized Greek enterprises.