Tourism is one of the three major pillars of the Greek economy, the other two being shipping and construction.
The Greek Ministry of Tourism is considered a strategic part of the government organization portfolio and one of its major tasks is to ensure that Greece stays competitive in the tourism arena, through the provision of quality products and services.
Quality competitive products and services imply a high level tourist satisfaction. This sometimes requires the government to crackdown on misbehaving or delinquent tourism service and product suppliers.
Tourism as a Service Industry
Tourism is primarily a service industry.
As any marketing book will emphasize, a service is something that is experienced only during consumption, and thus falls under a high-risk purchase decision. In order to dampen the risk, most would-be purchasers base their choice on references from family and friends, experts and individuals having gone through similar experiences (social media sites, media interviews etc…).
In a service industry, customer satisfaction and dampening of cognitive dissonance is vital for business continuity, business evolution and long term business success. This means that if Greece is to remain competitive in the tourist trade, for the long term, tourists visiting the country must leave with an overall positive impression.
These tourists will “spread the good word”, eventually returning and attracting more tourists and more tourism.
The questions regarding the kind of tourism that Greece presently attracts, will attract in the future, is capable of attracting, and would like to attract, are a case for strategic planning and will be dealt with in a future article.
The Current Status of the Greek Tourism Industry
Bookings in Crete, a traditional tourist favorite, were marginally lower than last year’s levels for the months of June and July, and the same is anticipated for September. The month of August recorded record highs with hotel bookings close to 100%.
The Cycladic complex of islands (islands such as Andros, Syros, Paros and Santorini for example) suffered major setbacks with 65% less arrivals in Andros, 40% less arrivals in Santorini and 30% less arrivals in Naxos the largest island in square kilometers in the complex.
Regarding the Ionian islands, Kerkyra (Corfu) recorded about 6% more arrivals, Cephalonia (a favorite for stars such as Madonna) a 6.3 % increase in arrivals, and Zakynthos a decrease of around 1.68%.
Chalkidiki in Macedonia recorded a fall of around 20% in overnight bookings which lead to a reduced turnover of about 30%.
Finally, the Dodecanese complex of islands (such as Patmos, Rhodes, and Kos) seems to be the clear season winner with an overall 10% increase in arrivals. Rhodes in particular experienced a 11.5 arrival increase in July, is doing well in August and has recorded an arrival increase of 7.5% between January and July 2010. This means 54,000 more tourists visited the island in 2010 that in 2009. Greek tourism to Rhodes recorded a fall of about 17% insofar as air arrivals are concerned and was mainly supported by German and British tourists.
Guidelines for Tourists Travelling to Greece
The following guidelines are intended to help render a prospective traveler’s experience in Greece more pleasant.
When it comes to accommodation, every tourist travelling to Greece should have a clear understanding of what is being offered both in accommodation space and included services. Since web sites can often be misleading, it is highly recommended (unless the tourist pursues a packaged deal through an operator) that the prospective visitor requests in written form a clear and concise description of the offered space and included services.
As of July the first 2010 all product and service providers whether hotels, taxis, restaurants, bars and so forth are required by law to issue receipts detailing accurately the product or service bought and consumed, the price paid for, and the value added service tax which runs at 23 percent (and may be soon elevated to 25%).
Any product or service provider refusing to issue a receipt should be immediately reported to the finance ministry through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at +302103375276, +302103427367, +302103424390.
Arrival to Greece is either by car, through air or by sea.
Usually, when arriving by air one lands either at the Macedonia airport in Thessaloniki Macedonia Greece, the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens Attiki Greece, or the Nikos Kazantzakis Airport at Iraklion Crete Greece.
Taxis are an option for many tourists wishing to head to their accommodations and related destinations.
As reported by George Papahristou in the weekend edition of Greek newspaper Ta Nea on the 21st of August, Taxi drivers especially around the Athens area can either be of great help or a general nuisance.
The traveller should request at the airport the taxi cost of his or her destination and should keep in mind that taxi drivers by law (even though this is frequently not followed) are required to handle one fair at a time.
In addition, taxis are required by law to stop at the bidding of a prospective passenger and to take this passenger, with legal fare, up to the required destination.
Any discrepancies should be reported to the Hellenic consumer protection agency at the following telephone numbers :+302310 233333, +302310 269449 and +302310 242211.
Tourism and Greek Hospitality
Even though tourism in Greece, for various reasons, has declined in the last couple of years, Greece still remains the preferred location for a large segment of the tourist population. This has to do with a number of things, including Greek hospitality which since ancient times is an integral component of the Greek character.
Indeed, refusal to offer hospitality to strangers is bound to invoke the wrath of Xenios Zeus, a wrath that few Greeks, ancient and modern, are willing to arouse and those that do arouse it,mortal or other (like the Cyclops in Homer’s Iliad), may be in for dire consequences indeed. This hospitality characteristic also explains a Greek’s insistence on covering the dinner cost at a tavern or restaurant.
This conflict between ancient customs and Christianity is found frequently in Greek culture (as in the case of the wishing well where young women throw stones in a well and make a wish to the nymphs of the well) and has historically lead to many misunderstandings, some of them severe as in the case of the murder of the Greek philosopher and Astronomer Hypatia of Alexandria.
On the other hand, this timelessly well-known hospitality also means that if a tourist is stranded for one reason or another, like in the case of tourist operator bankruptcy, this tourist can rely on a local support network until his or her affairs are settled, instead of harassment as recent events have shown in neighbouring countries.
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