Meeting with stakeholdres in the sector of tourism
“…First of all, I would like to thank you for this very warm and human welcome, for your love. I too love Litohoro and the region. I have been here many times, although a long time ago. I believe that then we talked about matters concerning the youth and the development of the region. Certainly, I know the whole Macedonian region very well, since when PASOK started I had the responsibility to organize the regions of Western and Central Macedonia. I was a student back then, or just a graduate. I see here many dear friends from abroad, from when we were together in exile, when we were immigrants; I see them here today…
I believe that many of the observations heard today are very useful and make us see how to particularly exploit tourism as a lever of development, especially now that it undergoes a serious crisis. We are not just speaking about numbers, that might be a bit higher or lower every year. There is a structural crisis in the sector of tourism and for this reason we have to proceed into a change of product in terms of quality, not necessarily in terms of quantity. We have to offer services that will attract tourists, in alternative forms or in more complex and varied forms of tourism compared to the ones of the past, that is, of the old idea of occupying a little room by the sea and near a small taverna and that is all.
I believe that this is where we should be heading. And it is a shame when the funds of the 3rd Framework Program are not utilized towards this direction. Unfortunately this government jeopardizes, by its actions or its inertia, to quickly loose a lot of funds from the 3rd Framework Program, which could be used for the country’s development, especially in the regions, even more in areas with high tourist potential.
The problem of tourism is well known. We need to invest in quality. The problem is not whether there is a ministry, indeed, a ministry without capacity, to compete and fight with other ministries without any actual contribution in the development of tourism. We see the Minister being promoted and not tourism, we see the traditional locations of Athens and some particular islands being promoted and not some other regions that may, indeed, offer alternative forms of tourism, that our country needs and that the tourists seek.
Agro- tourism as well as sightseeing tourism is an important field for development. You have the particularity to combine the beautiful sea with a famous historical and mythical mountain, Olympos.
This means that the region could indeed develop if proper planning and proper studies could take place, into a destination of choice for the youths of Europe, of the Balkans, where they could combine historical sightseeing and mountaineering at Olympos.
It is not only the prefecture of Pieria and the region that will attract tourism. Certainly internal tourism has to be supported, which, essentially, New Democracy abolished, since it stopped students’ tourism, which was useful both for students and for the internal tourism, and it seriously decreased tourism for pensioners, social tourism. Thus, these are elements that have to be developed since they promote tourism at large and they provide the opportunity to many citizens of our society to come to know more places in Greece.
Further I would like to stress that regarding “axis 10” we have made all efforts, when we were government, and managed to include it in transports programs, within the basic axes of development in the European Union. Certainly, this does not mean that these are directly financed, but this was our objective. Indeed in the Summit that took place in Salonika, in Chalkidiki, the European Union was bound to improve this axis. Already a major part has been completed.
Of course the result of this was that tourism decreased, especially in these regions, but in others in Greece as well. Because, for example, when Turkey has one million Russian tourists and we have one hundred, we understand that visa is an important element. Of course there are differences in prices, but difference in prices is not the only thing….
I want, finally, to stress something that I believe, that you have to demand from the government of New Democracy: the funds of the 4th Framework Program. I am afraid that we are not in a powerful position to negotiate due to errors made by the Greek government, errors connected to the climate created in our economy after the matter of the inventory, after the “fiasco” of the “basic shareholder” and, of course, due to the lack of alliances within the European Union with other countries, as is Spain, Portugal, and others, so as to have a better package for the 4th Framework Program.
However, it is not only how much we are going to get. It is also what we are going to get and for what regions. Thus, you have to demand targets for your needs, directions for tourism, objectives for agro- tourism, for rural development. We shall discuss matters of rural development in another meeting that we shall hold, so as to manage to help this region to properly exploit all such funds…”