Poor Infrastructure Undercuts Greek Tourism

UP_GREEK_tourism_billboard_times_squareAfter three years of negative foreign media reports and commentary about Greece, directly affecting the tourism industry of the country, “restoring” the image of the country this year is the first priority for the Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organisation Organization, although its campaign is already lagging.

It seems that one of the biggest problems is that the basic infrastructure (hotels, airports, roads and ports) has now become obsolete compared to those of competing countries.

The Chairman of the German Association of Travel Agents (DRV) Jürgen Büchy suggested in a report in Deutsche Welle that the problem of Greece’s image is not limited to the current economic crisis that’s led to protests, strikes and riots but in infrastructure, which lags behind compared to its competitors.

“What needs to be done is to look at what competitors are doing over the years. Greece is currently facing the problems of premature labor. The Greek travel destinations have been attracting millions of tourist for many years, but, meanwhile, new tourist destinations have emerged offering modern infrastructure and hotel facilities that are probably closer to what customers want. In this sense, Greece is called upon to cover some of the lost ground” noted Βüchy.

The General Manager of large tour operator REWE-Touristik Sören Hartman agreed. “With the term ‘infrastructure’, we mean airports and roads, and certainly Greece has a lot of ground to cover. But this was also true for the time before the crisis. The lack of infrastructure in the country is due to the many islands, large and small ones, all in need of their own infrastructure and means of transportation. In Turkey, for example, an airport serves 80% -90% of visitors. Clearly it is much easier for a country to finance a major airport than 10 or  15 small ones. Nevertheless, Turkey is way ahead in terms of infrastructure compared to Greece, but this is due to the fact that its economy is better than the Greek,” added Hartman.

He noted that Greece’s economic crisis leaves little money for improvements. “If there were the necessary resources,” he says, “attention should be given to two points: 1) modernization of hotel facilities. It is necessary to grant soft loans, which is highly unlikely in Greece today. And 2) Improvement of infrastructure, roads and airports. The tourist must get a high standards impression both when he arrives and when he leaves the country. Finally, a new campaign must be launched to acquire a completely new image for Greece, one linking contemporary with ancient Greece in a single idea. But all this requires money,” said Hartman.

For 2013 Hartman predicted that empathy towards Greece will be stronger than the crisis at least for those who know and have seen before the vast beauties of the country and have experienced the locals’ hospitality. However, Hartman, underlined that the past few years have cultivated a new generation of Europeans people in Germany and other Eurozone countries who have a negative overall picture of Greece, and it will take systematic efforts and time to reverse this trend.