Isn’t it amazing? A whole industry made up of people and their businesses can beg on bended knee for a new model for tourism, and their prayers will go unanswered. Necessity and the times will demand a truly sustainable paradigm shift, and the people at the top of the decision pyramid will just morph old ideas. Case in point Greece, where politicians and big hotel owners hear terms like degrowth and high-end travelers and think; “Yes! We’ll build more 5-star luxury beach resorts!” Funny thing, high net worth travelers do not stay at all-inclusive resorts, these are middle-class digs.
I was reading this morphing about the places billionaires stay when they go on vacation. A case came into view with Mykonos, party central of the Greek isles. According to Amir Benesh, CEO of LVH Global, which is a luxury home-rental service, billionaires who visit Mykonos can easily spend $1 million on a week-long trip. The breakdown of their spend is over a quarter of a million bucks on their villa or other lodgings, another $120,000 on dining, $21,000 or more on shuttles and daily travel, and something like $50,000 on nightclubbing. Reading, I just imagined a billionaire’s entourage on an exclusive tour of magic places here on Crete. Wow. What a shot in the arm such revenue would be for the dying villages that dot Crete’s landscape.
But the plans of Greece’s tourism bosses and their hotel friends still look like freshly painted buffet halls, a coat of paint on a new or old beachfront swimming pool, and MORE airport shuttles puking diesel into the air over Minoan Palaces. MORE, this is the only thing that registers with the geniuses of Greece tourism. “I own three big hotels that turn a profit on tiny margins afforded by TUI! I know, I’ll buy another hotel and make MORE!”
This is the mentality, as sad as it is. Whatever happened to “less is more”? Here’s the thing, though. While 5-star resorts like Blue Palace in Elounda get lots of ink because celebrities like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Tyra Banks stay with them, these pop icons don’t stay in rooms, they have their own private villas. It’s easy to visualize Lady Gaga lounging in her sea-view villa’s private pool, but it’s also important to imagine the hundreds and hundreds of other guests, and the impact they have on Crete island. And take note, Blue Palace is perhaps the finest luxury hotel on Crete, not all can make such a claim.
I wonder why my colleagues here in Greece cannot simply Google where the world’s wealthiest people like to stay on vacation? I mean, it’s pretty simple. In 10 seconds I was able to get a handle on high nest worth preferences from Anthony Lassman, co-founder of luxury travel and lifestyle-management company Nota Bene Globa. According to Lassman, $20 million is the starting wealth of his clients, and many are billionaires. So, where do these well to do folks prefer to stay? Private rental villas from Airbnb suited to the fabulously wealthy, that’s where. Lassman says clients usually pay $87,155 to $174,349 per week for the rentals only. And what about Greece’s super-rich? Where do the shipping magnates and oligarchs prefer to stay?
Poseidonion hotel on the island of Spetses was not built recently. It’s not the kind of experience you get at an all-inclusive filled up with TUI travelers. The hotel, built back ni 1914, is one of those experiences that is above luxury, you might say transportive. Read this article about the super-wealthy class of Greeks, and then factor in the tourism ministry’s ideas of adding MORE, instead of cherishing what is already available. Now, visualize transforming stone villas in the Crete countryside, on cliffs overlooking unspoiled beaches, and whole communities welcoming people who would be thrilled to pay handsomely for Cretan filoxenia. I know, a novel idea, but one it’s time for.
Finally, there’s a Google news story with the title “Should you visit Greece or Morocco – Which is Cheaper?” Well, as a resident of Crete I would say; “Go to Morrocco, by all means.” Since the retailers and businesses here on Crete are already operating on nothing, it seems to me that attracting people who can pay is the thing to do. Yes, another novel idea for the rocket scientists in Athens planning on longer buffet lines and row upon row of beach umbrellas. In Morrocco, room rates appear a lot cheaper at €19 vs. €55 per night. Yes, by any means necessary, go to Morrocco and save, save, save. Those among you with money to burn, and dreams of mythic paradises, come to Crete, we’ll show you another world. Really, is it so hard to imagine ancient Lappa (below) reborn?
For fun, I did a random search via TUI UK and instantly found a week-long Crete vacation including flights, room, board, and transfers for two guests for £1163.16. And that’s for TUI BLUE Elounda Village, not far from where Lady Gaga stays. Now, if my math is correct, that means that two people burn up a lot of jet fuel, taxi gas, buffet meals, and washed and dried linens for a whole week, for less than what Lady Gaga or some billionaire spends on a souvenir shopping afternoon. Maybe you get the gist of my argument. Greece can do a lot better by thinking about degrowth, and less is really more.