Greece Finds Alternative Tourism Options to Ease Financial Crisis

Greece Finds Alternative Tourism Options to Ease Financial Crisis
Bernadine Racoma

A financial crisis can inspire a nation to come up with creative ideas, just like what Greece is currently doing – offering alternative tourism options to help the government increase its revenues.

One example is what they are offering in Rhodes. Whereas the sound of bagpipes is not something that is identifiable with Greece, this, plus the slow beat of drums are the fitting backdrop to a historic tour of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town of Rhodes, with the tour participants illuminated by old-fashioned gas lanterns. The guide is dressed as a Knight of Saint John, while showing the sinister history of the island.

On this tour, the guide tells the participants how Sultan Suleiman the Great used his army’s fallen bodies as his bridge to cross the moat. That was during the Siege of Rhodes in 1522.

New experiences

This is just one of the innovative ideas under the banner “Experience Greece” that was conceived by one of the island’s resorts, the Lindian Village. Other experiences to lure more tourist include wine tasting in the Dodecanese islands’ small vineyards. There are also special beauty treatments with specially formulated products using lemon honey and yogurt grown and produced in Greece. The managing director of the hotel, Mariza Sviriadis, said the ideas came when Greece was suffering from an economic crisis for six years. She added that rather than keep the tourists indoors with all-inclusive packages, she wanted to take a different approach. When she launched the “Experience Greece” project she wanted to promote those places that were often overlooked but have several things to offer visitors.

Need for creativity

Ms. Sviriadis was not alone in thinking that they have to be creative in their promotions and offerings to bring more tourists to the country. Other people, like Tina Kyriakis, who is the founder of Alternative Athens, find that the financial crisis that hit Athens was a blessing. She got laid off from a multinational company, founded her own tourism company and saw the need to change the tourism promotion of Athens. She found it too standard, monotonous and stereotypical.

She kept thinking that there is more to Athens than being ancient. She said that the city has so many layers that someone has to peel them and see what lays underneath. And her concept was born. Now she offers different walking tours, the most popular of which are the “enchanted forests” guided tours and the graffiti tours. Her company also offers special pairings for visitors and Athenian gourmets that use their apartments to host four-course supper clubs.

Opening new destinations

As these new tourism agents found, there are still many regions in Greece that are often overlooked by package tour operators, such as Milos. A local, Frangiksos Karelas went into agritourism with his family farm. Milos has one of the oldest cities in Europe, a bronze-aged settlement called Phylakopi. Venus de Milo was unearthed in the area and it also is an area that has an enviable amount of minerals. However, Milos was seldom included in tours. The hotels in the area are mostly family-run, whose focus is more on quality and service instead of just selling the rooms, according to Antonis Mallus, who started “Travel Me to Milos.” He started his company in 2011 after leaving a lucrative job. He said that Milos has plenty to offer travelers, from catacombs that existed in the 3rd century that are full of Christian murals, to an old lair of a pirate, underwater caves and ancient thermal baths.

His company provides in-depth knowledge of Milos, weather updates and specializes in geological and archeological tours. He and other vendors he has teamed up with are now offering hiking and sailing expeditions. They have also introduced cooking lessons that focus on the islands local produce, including cheese. They are now seeing progress in tourism.

Other companies in several unique destinations are also offering tours and new experiences, such as olive picking, wine making and yoga retreats. In Biolea, visitors are able to have a glimpse of the Cretan tradition of creating olive oil. In Biosporos in Corfu, an organic farm offers participation in farming activities, eat in an organic restaurant, and learn cooking the traditional way or use magnetic therapy to detox.

More and more areas are getting their regions known to tourists and travelers, discovering and highlighting the beauty and offerings of their locality, all in an effort to turn the financial crisis into something positive for Greece.

Image credit: Corfu town centre bgiu taken by Bogdan Giuşcă under Public Domain.

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