Greece is an ideal tourist destination. It is a country with unique and diverse landscape, ancient history and heritage. Tourism has always been considered as the main pillar of the Greek economy. The economic crisis in Greece unveiled that in fact, tourism was not considered to be part of a serious national strategy. The present economic situation makes clear that tourism – must be used as a vehicle for the re-ignition of the Greek economy as long as several structural reforms are achieved and appropriate legal framework is implemented.
The European Union thinks of tourism as a sector of special interest because of the fact that tourism contributes for 10% of the EU GDP and employs 20 million people. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), during the year 2013 1,08 billion of citizens have travelled around the world, half of ten have visited Europe. Therefore, it is obvious that tourism can play an even greater role in the years ahead, towards the economic growth of the EU. This truth is also valid in Greece, where the tourism sector contributes 16,4% to the national GDP. On these grounds, the Greek EU Presidency promotes all the policies decided by member-states, so that Europe remains the top destination on the tourism map.
Furthermore, taking into consideration that among the European countries, Greece has the second place with 16.500 km of coastlines (first being Norway), it is not a surprise that the Greek government aims to enhance its Coastal and Maritime Tourism. It will be one of the major fields of Action of the Greek Presidency.
Pleasure boats: new legal framework to boost coastal tourism in Greece
The Greek Minister of Shipping, Maritime Affairs and the Aegean has issued a law bill regarding the pleasure boats (or recreation ships, as also known) sector. It is the first time that a Greek government is making an attempt to apply a consistent legal framework upon the activities of the pleasure boats area. The government aims that this law will appeal more tourists from abroad who travel by pleasure boats. The existing vague situation of the yachting sector was for long prohibitive for tourists, as they preferred other neighboring countries to moor their boats, but not anymore.
Legislation on coastal tourism and the benefits it brings
This law bill provides the definitions of all types of pleasure boats:
- Private recreation ships – motor yachts and sailing boats, with length over seven meters, used solely for leisure voyages.
- Professional pleasure boats – motor yachts and sailing boats, having the capability of hosting 49 people. A charter contract between the owner and the charterer is required.
- Professional tourist boats used to perform a daily sea trip.
Benefits by law implementation are:
- Reinforcement of the Greek economy. The Hellenic Chamber of Shipping conducted a study which shows that every year almost 17.000 pleasure boats are moored at the marinas or the harbors existing along the Greek coastline. The people working on the pleasure boats sector as a whole are estimated to be 20.000.The government aims that this legal framework would be an incentive for more people preferring this form of tourism to moor their boats in Greece. If the estimations are correct, then in few years time there would be a creation of 60.000 new job opportunities.
- Increase of the income of local businesses. It is estimated that every tourist who is spending 100 € on the services provided by a marina is spending another 450 € on the local economy.
- Increase competiveness with other countries providing similar facilities. The bureaucracy is eliminated because the electronic registry for pleasure boats is established. Additionally the charter contract is submitted to the Greek authorities electronically. So far, it was necessary for the user of recreation ship to pay a small amount of harbor duties to get a departure permit. From now on, this harbor duty is repealed.
- Pack in tourists from abroad. Foreign tourists will prefer Greece and its facilities for the following reasons:
- it will be permitted to charter a bareboat pleasure ship, as long as its length is up to 24 m (something which is already valid in other European countries).
- Foreign flagged (not coming from the EU) recreational ships can be chartered (under specific conditions).
- As already mentioned above, the paperwork is eliminated.
- Pack in new investors interested to run business relating to the yachting sector. The law will introduce modern practices aiming to create a business – friendly environment.
Tourist Development: the key sector which will reinforce the economic climate in Greece
The Greek Ministry of Tourism has developed a law bill whose aim is to promote different aspects of this important economic sector.
This law bill provides definitions of complex tourist infrastructures such as marinas, ski centers, and accommodation. The law bill introduces some reforms that will make the operation processes of all the above facilities more flexible and efficient.
Furthermore, the law bill explains the meaning of the term “agro-tourism” and again it provides the framework under which all the businesses providing agro-tourism facilities will operate.
If Greece wants to ensure sustainability of its tourist product, it is crucial to invest on the “human capital” – the people who be employed with tourist relevant jobs. Therefore, it is important to provide such an educational structure which meets the modern needs of tourist global environment. The law bill introduces changes that will affect the operating methods of tourist schools.
Finally, the bill regulates matters that concern the efficient use of land available for tourist development.
The benefits of this law are:
- It g emphasizes on the human capital, environmental protection and improvement of tourism infrastructure. These three elements ensure tourism sustainability. Hence, Greece will be more and more considered as the ultimate tourist destination.
- he agro-tourism will provide support to the local economies of several regions of the country and it will highlight the competitive advantages of the Greek rural products.
Greek authorities realize that only rational reforms on tourism sector can bring the economic growth to the country. At the same, the EU takes tourism under great consideration, therefore serious coordinated actions on national and EU level must be taken, for tourism to be the tool for development.