MICHAEL G. IAKOVIDIS
17.04.2022 • 20:41
At the recent Delphi Forum, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias stressed that “work is paramount now – at the end of 2022 we will make a fund”. He is right: valuation should not be made in an effort at birth, but from the result. The question is, “what result will we count?”. In his honor, the minister took a first step recognizing that although he will go “door to door” to wild tourists, maximizing the number of visitors is not an end in itself. “Better” tourists, extension of the tourist season, emphasis on opportunistic residents (digital nomads, retirees from other countries) will have a greater economic impact.
In another panel, a businesswoman with an investment of 600 million said happily that “we have not seen anything yet – seven billion want Mykonos”. Perhaps he did not notice that last year the pits of Mykonos flooded the island or that the strategic investments from which it is subsidized, although they consume public goods, do not come with the obligation – as they should – to create infrastructure. It was not obscured by the “carrying capacity” on which the CoC recently relied to repeal Presidential Decrees and the expansion of settlements in Mykonos and Paros. A Mykonos with millions of tourists, the degeneration of the environment and the bad taste of an investor who has crippled Ios are not images of progress, as they have realized in Venice and Amsterdam. At a time when tourists themselves are demanding sustainable solutions, as Google confirms, instead of privatizing environmental inspections we should build an Independent Environmental Authority. The Spaniards know how easy it was to destroy the Costa Brava. SETE, recognizing the problem, has prepared a strategic plan for tourism and destination management, and we now have a relevant law. But out of good intentions we must proceed with the implementation, which will require difficult choices in the central and regional administration, and parts of the state mechanism. It remains to be seen whether, for example, ETAD will designate beaches that it will not lease. In this way it will be possible to maintain the feeling of the beautiful wildness and the uniqueness that the commercials of Greece inevitably advertise.
The fund we have to make at the end of the year should focus on simple, measurable elements of changing the mix of tourists, changing the model so that tourism benefits the economy, society and sustainability. The government narrative must meet reality, because the country is facing zero environmental time. From investment inactivity we have gone to the other extreme, allowing “strategic” (see: large) investors to reap the special characteristics of our country without having any substantial obligation to support sustainability, where even investments in climate adaptation clash with the protection of biodiversity and the special character of protected places, such as Skyros. Government greenwashing is not enough. Actions are needed. The fund that focuses on sustainability and the environment will be a legacy not only for the country but also for the government. A recent IPSOS / EEB study on young people shows that the most important problems are climate change (46%) and environmental protection (44%). The economic situation and unemployment follow in fifth place with only 30%. We know from another recent study that in Greece, the environment and sustainability do not yet have a “party identity”, perhaps because the opposition has shown the same, so far, weakness with the government in its defense. As autonomy in the second round focuses on the battle for the undecided, much of the Center and the youth, the fund in the field of environmental protection and the character of the country can be politically fatal. Time to look ahead.
* Mr. Michael G. Iakovidis (www.jacobides.com) holds the Sir Donald Gordon Chair of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, where he is Professor of Strategy. He is a strategy consultant at the Hellenic Society of Environment and Culture.