ATHENS – Greece isn’t taking enough advantage of its ancient and revered history and has overlooked cultural tourism to bring in more visitors, the country’s Center of Economic Planning and Research (KEPE) said.
KEPE said cultural tourism in Greece and research into related issues are in urgent need of comprehensive development.
“The potential is not simply there but there is a surplus and it’s often latent. What is required is a comprehensive and systematic drive at all levels for the right projection and further tapping in the tourism sector,” the report said.
That comes days after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited an Alexander the Great-era tomb at Amphipolis in Macedonia, the kind of site that draws visitors but which Greece hasn’t developed.
“At a much more general economic level, a related OECD study showed that in several large economies the value produced by their cultural industries is in the order of 3-6 percent of GDP. Indeed, given that the study in question refers to countries such as the US, the UK and France, it becomes obvious that cultural tourism is a huge industry where huge interests are at stake and huge sums are involved… more than 50 percent of tourism activity in Europe is driven by cultural heritage and cultural tourism is the component expected to have the highest growth rate,” the paper continued.
And while the Acropolis Museum has been hailed as one of the world’s best, ticket sales for Greek museums, which are vastly under-promoted, are far behind those of museums in other countries despite the historic attractions Greece offers. Greek archaeological sites are also being ignored, the report added.
The KEPE study draws attention to the fact that, according to 2012 data, the number of admission tickets issued for Greece’s largest museums and archaeological sites lagged far behind those issued for their counterparts abroad.
“It is worth contemplating, for instance, why Rome’s Colosseum and its surrounding area have an almost quadruple number of visitors compared to the Acropolis.
The same goes for Ephesus in Turkey, which receives more than four times the number of visitors as Knossos (Crete) and almost 14 times more visitors than the Temple of Apollo at Cape Sounion,” KEPE said.
The factors affecting cultural tourism are many and complex but they may come under two main categories, the report argued.
First, the intrinsic and specific factors in each case which affect cultural tourism, such as population criteria, tourism history and geography, infrastructure, as well as all kinds of financial and accidental factors.
Second, the methods and practices employed by foreign countries’ cultural organizations – but also several in Greece – to attract more visitors and to nurture an interest in cultural heritage among younger generations.
Greece does little promotion or advertising for tourism, especially in the Diaspora, relying on word of mouth and hoping people will come. Despite that, the country is undergoing a second-straight record-breaking tourism season, but the KEPE report indicates how much greater it could be if pushed.