Greek regions aim to boost agri-tourism potential this summer

A tavern in Crete, Greece. [GuyDeckerStudio/Flickr]

Greece’s regions are exploring ways to link rising tourism to local quality food consumption and get away from the established concept of mass tourism.

Taking advantage of Turkey’s political instability, Greece is expecting this summer to welcome more than 30 million tourists: a record.

According to the estimates of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, revenues from tourism in 2017 will increase 9%, and top €1.3 billion.

According to Ypaithros.gr, the Greek regions want to take the country’s driving-force for public revenues a step forward and promote agri-tourism.

Agri-tourism basically links tourism and agriculture by exploiting the specific local features of agri-food products. Regarding foodstuffs, Greece is among the top five EU countries with registered food products under EU quality schemes.

Regional Tourism Director of the Region of Central Greece Giannis Kotzias said that for decades there has been no serious planning to shape the right environment on which agriculture and tourism will develop.

“If the primary production sector cooperates with tourism, through a comprehensive development plan, it can deliver great results,” he insisted.

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The EU’s Southern member states are the leading producers of foods certified by EU quality schemes: between them, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece account for 70% of the total.

Escaping from the ‘mass’ tourism logic

The regions believe that connecting the agri-food sector with the catering businesses as well as enhancing consumer “regional consciousness” will boost the potential of local growth.

From Central Macedonia to Crete, regions are setting up agri-food partnerships with the support of the EU and try to bring several parts of the economy together through synergies.

Alexandros Thanos from the Central Macedonia region stressed that there was a need to “escape” from the logic of mass tourism, which in Greece means rising prices and poor quality.

“We are reversing this image by creating an authentic flavor, an experiential approach to the tourist product that is associated with myth, local tradition and culture,” he said.

Attracting women and youth

According to policy makers, the idea of agri-tourism can also be part of a wider push for a “rural renaissance” as it could also be used as a means to bring young people back to the farm as well as highlight women’s role.

In a study of women in rural areas adopted by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and Women’s Committee in February, EU lawmakers pointed out the role of a “multifunctional” woman in boosting rural areas.

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“Rural tourism, which includes the supply of goods and services in the countryside through family and cooperative enterprises, is a low-risk sector, generates employment, makes it possible to combine personal and family life with work and encourages the rural population, especially women, to remain in the countryside,” the report highlighted.

As far as young people are concerned, Copa-Cogeca, the organisation of European farmers, believes that that the development of “smart villages” would not only boost the well-being of farmers but would also make farming more attractive to young people.

“Farmers are not only the first producers of food, they are also the first world exporter of agri-food and they play a crucial role in preserving our natural resources, creating growth and jobs in rural areas and providing an attractive countryside for agri-tourism,” Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said.

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