In Athens, Greece tourism decision-makers are asking for investment to build on recent success in order to double visitor numbers. Tourism revenues for 2019 reached record-breaking heights, and stakeholders want more. A lot more. But, what about sustainable tourism? Does the leadership really care about the future, or is the future just a balance sheet?
Trojan Economic Horses
Trending Economics reports tourism revenues in Greece averaged €924.56 million euro from 1997 until 2019, and that as of July a record high of €3645.33 euros poured into the country. Ironically, the IMF announced yesterday it had revised Greece’s growth outlook downward to only 2 percent in 2019 and 2.2 percent for 2020.
Unfortunately, the billions in touristic revenues have not helped retailers and many other tourism-related businesses. Retail sales are not up, even though a lot is being spent on travel. Trending Economics tells us retail sales revenue was actually down by 3% this season. More on that in another report, there’s something more pressing, and dire, to discuss here.
As you can see, the numbers show the trend for increasing budget tourism and all-inclusive holidays, since retail has gone down even with increased traveler flows. Ordinarily, retail revenue would rise to coincide with overall euro flows if some stakeholders had not opted for bargain-seeking (guaranteed) tourism. As we’ve seen with the Thomas Cook catastrophe, sustainability and boosted budget tourism are mutually exclusive. The swayed balance, as it were, now seeks equilibrium.
A Greece Disaster Plan: Just Like the American One
Meanwhile, The Guardian imprints for us the idea of Greece becoming the “Florida of Europe” in the coming years. Recalling the paving over of the U.S. state since my childhood, I cannot help but wonder if this is the best course for my Greek friends.
We should be thankful that the President of the Confederation of Greek Tourism (SETE), Yiannis Retsos is issuing a caution on throttling up Greece’s traveler numbers. Retsos told The Guardian:
“What we have to do now is go through a maturity process, manage our destinations so that tourists and locals, alike, are happy, extend the season and invest in public infrastructure. If by magic Greece were to attract another 10 million visitors it wouldn’t be able to handle such numbers.”
Unfortunately, the wisdom of Retsos does is not a prevalent smartness in Greece. In the same report Theodore Pelagidis, professor of economics at the University of Piraeus, prognosticates the ultimate catastrophe for Greeks:
“Tourism is Greece’s competitive advantage and it can be the locomotive of development for the entire economy. But long-term salvation will only come when it becomes the Florida of Europe, improving services enough to attract foreigners to live here permanently. It has everything going for it, a unique quality of life and natural beauty that few other countries are blessed to have.”
Do economics professors go to different schools to get to be professors? Are urban or environmental geography courses available as prerequisite training for educators and experts? The good doctor simply must read this Popular Science report entitled “Florida is a preview of our climate-change future.” When we weigh the current state of Greece’s leadership trust, the system and progressiveness in place during the time of the Colonels seems futuristic.
Dear Dr. Pelagidis, Florida is an ongoing, rolling catastrophe of monumental proportions. Ah, but I see the professor is part of the Brookings Institute think tank network. He’s also a NATO scholar. But, I won’t get into globalist geopolitical issues here. The point is, with genius ideas like Pelagidis and other entrenched experts have, the Greece that people once was will soon cease to exist. Apparently, the trend to turn Greece’s cultural value into a beach party is not just a wayward hotelier’s idea. NATO scholars being cited to add credibility for Greek economic models?
If Greece becomes Europe’s “Florida” not much of what makes Greece-Greece will survive long. In the “Sunshine State,” the Everglades have shrunk to half their size. The only water aquifers in the state are either drying up or being degraded by saltwater. Thousands of lakes are drying up including gigantic Lake Okeechobee. Red tides and toxic water threaten Florida’s once fabulous beaches.
A new analysis by the University of Florida says one-third of the state will be developed in the next few decades. Furthermore, houses, businesses, and roads will sit where once several million acres of farms and habitats now stand. For citizens, the cost of roads, drinking water, drainage, sewer systems will also skyrocket if Greece tourism takes a turn toward being like Florida.
In Central Florida, where I spent much of my childhood, half of what was a Garden of Eden in 1970, will be concrete, golf courses, or amusement parks. Orlando and other areas are already unrecognizable for people who lived there in the state’s heyday. By 2050 the whole state will be a shopping mall.
Greeks Need to Halt a Tourism Apocolypse
I could go on for the rest of today, this week, and into the coming months listing what went wrong in Florida. The point is, Greece still has a chance to escape the super-development armageddon outside investors have in mind for all these Greek isles. Beachfront property in Florida being what it is – expensive as hell – the same people who destroyed America’s vacationland will do the same to Greece.
Rest assured, the “economics” of Greece tourism right now, they mirror the same greed and obtuseness we saw in the late 1960s in the U.S. We had the chance to save Florida, but failed. I urge my Greek friends to pay close attention now before the interests of the U.S. Department of State and the banking elite take precedence over what is good for the people of Greece.
When a Fullbright Fellow and a Washington think tank senior fellow tell you the future is Greece as a Florida clone… Well, I’ll address this in a geopolicy analysis somewhere else. I’ll just urge you to read from this Flordia Today study, this story at The New Yorker, and this story of Florida before overdevelopment. If you think Greek politicians and European banking pirates hurt Greece before, you’d damn sure pay close attention now.
To be continued…