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Austrian-Greek Sustainable Tourism Cooperation Project Concludes, Disseminates Recommendations

The Project Team

An ambitious 14-month European Union-funded grant project under the rather long title “Technical Assistance action to support tourism planning and policy for the promotion of sustainable tourism development in Greece Reference No.: SRSS/S2016/013” was completed in September and last Friday 15/9 ECOCLUB.com was invited to attend the final “Dissemination Workshop” in downtown Athens.

The project was supported by the EU Structural Reform Programme (SRSS), led by an Austrian consortium composed of the Federal Procurement Agency (BBG) and the Agency for Economic Cooperation and Development (AED) and involved the cooperation of the Greek Ministry of Economy, Development & Tourism (MEDT) while “twin” experts from Austria/EU and the Greek side were allocated on each topic. The leading domestic and foreign tourism experts also involved ECOCLUB.com Members Mr Robert Travers who was responsible for the Diving (sea) parks segment.

The two key aims of this ambitious and multifaceted project, which started in July 2016, was to support, through knowledge transfer, the Greek Tourism authorities in their efforts to diversify and increase the quality of the tourism product so as to extend the tourism season beyond the summer months, and secondly, to promote sustainable tourism policies and to foster responsible business practices and policies. In effect the product of this project are detailed written recommendations for ministerial action in a wide range of fields including: tourism statistics, monitoring & reporting, a tourism strategic plan, a hotel code of ethics, legislation covering hoteliers-clients-tour operator’s relations, settlement procedures for hotel-oriented differences, a review of educational and professional tourism training institutions, educational programmes in museums and archaeological sites, the creation of Diving parks, nature-based tourism and religious-pilgrimage tourism.

While the document containing the detailed recommendations is not publically available (yet?), the executive summary handed to the press includes recommendations, some general, others specific for all of the above issues.

Regarding nature-based tourism, it was recommended that the Tourism Vice-Ministry should:

  • take the lead and efficiently manage the communication between all stakeholders.
  • streamline the certification for food and nature-based tourism enterprises
  • implement a sound legal framework for Agritourism offerings
  • build a strong, unifying brand for nature and food-based tourism and promote it internationally
  • encourage producers to apply for Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication and Slow Foods Ark of taste
  • implement a pilot Slow Food destination in southern Evia island.

The Diving-related recommendations included:

  • improve inter-ministerial cooperation for Dive Park designation and management
  • introduce the Green Fin certification in cooperation with the Dive Centres Association
  • develop a flagship underwater museum
  • develop a flagship dive product at a Natura2000 reserve
  • improve marketing of Scuba
  • support SME tourism entrepreneurship in Dive Centres

As Maarten Verwey, Director General of the European Commission Structural Reform Support Service, rightly points out, in the preface of the executive summary, tourism is changing and visitors in Greece are increasingly looking beyond the traditional ‘sun, sand and sea’ package, seeking unique and customised sustainable tourism experiences, which also in the best interest of local communities.

Awaiting the detailed proposals, we hope that this important study will not meet the same fate of numerous others in the past collecting dust in ministerial shelves and at least some of the concrete recommendations, like the one on creating a world-class flagship diving site in a protected area, are acted upon.

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