Route To Sustainable Tourism In Greece Lined With Olive Oil

Olive oil has great potential in marketing Greek tourism destinations and can be used as a tool of sustainable development, a researcher noted.

Apr. 3, 2017
By Stav Dimitropoulos

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In the early 70’s, the Greek tourism indus­try exploded. Magnificent Greek flir­ta­tions of sea, sun and moun­tains cou­pled with a unique his­tory, deli­cious food, good air­port infra­struc­tures and a cost of liv­ing lower than other European places made the Southeastern Mediterranean coun­try a much sought-after destination.

Olive oil can become a strong mar­ket­ing tool to ensure sus­tain­able tourism that is not con­fined to Sea and Sun’ cliches.- Alexandros Passalis

This, in turn led to an indus­tri­al­iza­tion” of the tourism prod­uct, as the major­ity of the Greek des­ti­na­tions invested in a Sea and Sun” tourist prod­uct, accord­ing to Alexandros Passalis, an expert in tourism and man­ager of the Alex Beach Hotel & Bungalows on the Greek island of Rhodes. 

Nowadays this is not enough. In a period when com­pe­ti­tion has set new rules in the global tourism mar­ket, the chal­lenge for Greece is to become a suc­cess­ful player within the con­text of sus­tain­able tourism devel­op­ment. The emerg­ing demand for spe­cial-inter­est tourism activ­i­ties, such as agri­cul­ture and food, can pro­vide Greek des­ti­na­tions the oppor­tu­nity to dif­fer­en­ti­ate and enhance their tourism prod­uct,” Passalis told Olive Oil Times. 

In his the­sis for an MSc in Bournemouth University School of Tourism, which made up a chap­ter of the book Tourism and New Media” that con­tained a slew of case stud­ies from Italy and Greece, Passalis found that olive oil, as well as spe­cial-inter­est, tourism-related resources like gas­tro­nomic tourism and local food prod­ucts, have great poten­tial in mar­ket­ing Greek tourism des­ti­na­tions, and can be used as tools of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and a way out of the country’s eco­nomic and social crisis. 

But what is sus­tain­able devel­op­ment? For tourism to remain sus­tain­able, it has to encom­pass cer­tain eco­nomic, social and envi­ron­men­tal dimen­sions. In a nut­shell, it has to respect local ecosys­tems and make opti­mal use of envi­ron­men­tal resources that are key ele­ments in tourism devel­op­ment; it has to inject income into local economies and keep their gears going in a fair way that ben­e­fits all stake­hold­ers; and it has to respect the cul­tural her­itage and tra­di­tional val­ues of host com­mu­ni­ties while boost­ing inter­cul­tural under­stand­ing and tolerance. 

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That is why olive oil can become a strong mar­ket­ing tool to ensure sus­tain­able tourism that is not con­fined to Sea and Sun’ cliches,” said Passalis, whose research set out to eval­u­ate how olive oil can con­tribute to the sus­tain­able tourist devel­op­ment in Greece by dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing and enhanc­ing the Greek tourism product. 

The researcher con­ducted face-to-face, in-depth inter­views with Greek tourism pro­fes­sion­als. The hotel and restau­rant man­agers or own­ers who took part in the study were encour­aged to describe their expe­ri­ences when try­ing to pro­mote olive oil, men­tion what guests found inter­est­ing about it and make rec­om­men­da­tions about how the national tourism prod­uct could be enhanced through olive oil. All respon­dents were asked to describe the bar­ri­ers in the con­nec­tion between olive oil and tourist expe­ri­ences in Greece and to ana­lyze their ideas about the way Liquid Gold could become a tool of sus­tain­able tourism development. 

Overall, the research con­cluded that local gas­tron­omy is essen­tial, as mod­ern trav­el­ers con­sider it a vehi­cle to explore new cul­tures, and tourist des­ti­na­tions must come up with ways to offer a gen­uine taste” of the region to tourists with­out sac­ri­fic­ing sus­tain­abil­ity, now more than ever. 

First, it was found that if activ­i­ties related to olive oil such as har­vest­ing are pro­moted effec­tively, Greek des­ti­na­tions have the oppor­tu­nity to cre­ate demand even in the low sea­sons and, more impor­tantly, add value to the tourists’ expe­ri­ence (some­thing that is hap­pen­ing right now in Spain with oleotourism). 

Then, the study sug­gested that the role of the gov­ern­ment and local author­i­ties should be to uti­lize olive oil as a tool of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment by har­mo­niz­ing the inter­ests of the rural com­mu­ni­ties in the tourist des­ti­na­tions with the tourism sec­tor and the envi­ron­ment, and man­ag­ing eco­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural aspects in the most com­pat­i­ble way. 

Many respon­dents sug­gested the cre­ation of olive oil routes” such as those in Italy as another way to pub­li­cize olive oil as a tourism prod­uct — routes through which vis­i­tors could learn about the pro­duc­tion process of olive oil, its qual­ity and cul­tural importance. 

All respon­dents of the sur­vey agreed that olive oil can indeed dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Greek tourist prod­uct. Greece devotes 60 per­cent of its cul­ti­vated land to olive grow­ing, and despite its small size, holds the third place in world olive production.”

Olive oil is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Greek iden­tity; it is an inte­gral part of the Greek diet and is con­tin­u­ously used not only to cover nutri­tional needs but also for cul­tural and reli­gious pur­poses,” said Passalis, whose research estab­lished that the con­nec­tion between olive oil and tourism can indeed sat­isfy all three dimen­sions of sus­tain­able tourism.



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