With dozens of picture-perfect villages, endless beaches, lush untouched forests, award-winning products and gastronomic traditions, one can only wonder why the regional unit of Arcadia – a mere two-hour drive from Athens – is still lagging behind in tourism flows and infrastructure compared to other Greek destinations.
In efforts to tap into the country’s growing tourism market, the Arcadia Chamber with the support of the Peloponnese Region announced last weekend plans to promote the unit’s wide array of destinations aiming after the municipal elections – most likely on June 2 – to launch a far-reaching action plan that will finally establish Arcadia as the ideal experiential travel destination.
Tell the World
The Arcadia Chamber is relying on its members to take the first daring step and set the example so that others can follow. And they have ambitious plans including firstly to introduce people to the region.
“Despite being very close to Athens, people are not aware of what Arcadia and its municipalities have to offer,” the newly-elected Arcadia Chamber President Yiannis Troupis (photo center) tells GTP Headlines.
In office for under four months, Troupis explains that the crisis mentality hindered any activity for growth and development. “We simply got used to the crisis,” he says.
Creating a tourist product and establishing a brandname-identity is a demanding endeavour as the regional unit of Arcadia, located in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula, has five municipalities: Gortynia, Megalopoli, North Kynouria (aka Voreia Kynouria), South Kynouria (aka Notia Kynouria), and the capital, the historic town of Tripoli – each a unique destination in its own right. The chamber is now seeking ways to get word about Arcadia destinations out there.
“There are many opportunities for growth but each business owner can’t do it alone. Stakeholders must work together to draw up a carefully researched strategic plan, set specific goals and with coordinated actions produce results,” says Troupis, who is also the owner of a winery in the tiny village of Fteri, producing among others the famed AOC (controlled designation of origin) Moschofilero.
Troupis is the youngest Chamber president to take office and is eager to see the region “claim a part of the tourism market it rightfully deserves”. He also wants to see a different type of traveler coming to his native Arcadia.
“Our goal is to attract higher-spending tourists from abroad, holidaymakers seeking alternative products and to increase domestic tourism, but infrastructure is still lagging,” he explains, adding that Arcadia can offer tourism options all year round at a value for money.
Other actions the Arcadia Chamber plans to implement include organizing a series of special interest festivals (gastronomy, wine, sport, hiking, climbing) as well as creating an online platform giving voice and presence to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses active in tourism.
Arcadia’s Diversity Still ‘Unknown’
Skiing, swimming, motor cross, rafting, hiking, roller skiing, herb and mushroom collecting, fishing, climbing, monasteries, eating and sampling wine are just some of the tourism products on offer in Arcadia, and yet very few people know that all this is available in less than two hours outside Athens.
“We want to bring back Arcadia into the tourism spotlight. Whether its medical, religious or conference, sea & sun and winter sports, Arcadia can offer it,” Ioannis Sambrakos, president of the Arcadia Chamber Tourism Department, tells GTP Headlines.
Sambrakos has ambitious plans to work together with stakeholders and decision-makers to turn Arcadia into the “Tuscany of Greece” and Tripoli into a city break destination that will serve as a base for the entire region.
“We’ve got it all. There are so many things to do, so many places to visit, so many options in such an unspoilt region. It’s an all-weather, all-inclusive destination,” he says.
According to Sambrakos there are currently 5,700 beds in Arcadia, mostly in the 3- or 4-star category, which are occupied for 2.5 nights on average mainly by Greeks (90 percent) and a mix of Europeans and returning Greek-Americans. Last year, the region saw a 40 percent rise in visitor numbers.
The Chamber, he said, is now targeting the Belgium, France, Austria, Israeli and Italian markets.
Both Troupis and Sambrakos admit that until recently there was little or no tourism planning, limited funding, lack of communication and coordination, and restricted investment activity.
“We now need to find common ground, create a business plan, enter funding programs, and attract private investments,” explains Sambrakos.
Expressing optimism on the future of Arcadia within the Peloponnese Region’s strategy for tourism development, Peloponnese Region Deputy Governor for Development Dina Nikolakou referred to a series of projects currently under way or in final planning stages such as a park/resort at the Ladon Lake in the Gortynia municipality, and a history theme park in Tripoli.
Ideas tabled include the creation of an airport serving low-cost carriers in Tripoli, and a waterway hub in Astros.
Under the “Mythical Peloponnese” theme, Nikolakou said the regional authority’s focus is now to introduce religious, wine, conference, adventure, gastronomy and cultural tourism offerings while at the same time promoting the region’s diverse products.
Indicatively, last year, the Peloponnese was included among the 50 best places to visit by Travel + Leisure Magazine, along with Buenos Aires, Marrakesh, and the Fiji Islands.
Nikolakou set a five-year time frame for all actions to fall into place and begin producing results.
She also referred to the importance to local tourism of the Kalamata Airport, the awarded Costa Navarino resort, which last year hosted global leaders in travel, tourism and hospitality for the 6th World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL) Think Tank and said that the German Travel Association (DRV) was also considering holding its high-profile annual conference in the Peloponnese this year.
For now, besides its established winter tourism season, which is short – from December to February – the leading driver of tourism to the Arcadia unit is the multi-awarded Menalon Trail, an eight-path network spanning 75km of Arcadia forests, valleys and rivers, and the first in Greece to receive European certification and be placed among the Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe certification.