Cyprus, Greece and Portugal need to introduce alternatives to complement sun, sea and sand if they want to remain top tourist destinations and help their economies, according to new research.
All three countries could increase their tourism revenue by offering holidays focusing on wine and gastronomy, culture, religion, conferences and agro-tourism, such as farm-based holidays, the study claims.
Dr Nikolaos Antonakakis, a senior lecturer at Portsmouth University and an assistant professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, said: “These countries have the resources to accommodate visitors and broadening what they can offer reduces the seasonality of sun, sea and sand tourism and would attract visitors who are likely to spend more.”
Meanwhile, countries such as Italy or Spain, which experienced tourism-lead economic growth over a 17-year period studied by researchers, should use tourism to promote regional development by redistributing tourism benefits across the economy.
Dr Antonakakis and colleagues studied tourism across 10 European countries between 1995 and 2012, including two periods of economic downturn.
Rather than tightening their belts when times are hard, the researchers found that governments could spend their way out of recession by investing in better infrastructure to generate more tourism.
Dr Antonakakis said: “The results are particularly significant for policy-makers, suggesting that the strategic planning of the tourism sector expansion, when aimed at stimulating the national economy, and vice versa, should take into consideration this time-varying relationship.
“Policy making should be flexible and respond to the changing character of the tourism-economic growth relationship.
“When countries tighten their belts they end up hampering tourism, for example, due to limited funding or infrastructure. But we are saying that at times of financial hardship the national strategy should be to promote tourism which, in turn, would pave the way for an improvement in the economy.”
The biggest losers of the recession of 2007 and the on-going eurozone crisis which began in 2010 are Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Spain – the same countries to have experienced the greatest economic downturn since 2009, the study found.
Tourism accounts for about 16% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Greece.
But the country saw a 31.2% drop in visitors from the UK between 2007 and 2010, and Cyprus, traditionally another favourite destination for British holidaymakers, saw prices rise and the number of tourists drop, many choosing instead to book holidays in Turkey, Spain or Portugal.
Tourism represents about 10% of Spain’s GDP. The country fared better over the period examined than that of Greece and Cyprus because it is cheaper, appealing to cost-conscious tourists, and because its main competitors, countries in North Africa, had suffered political upheaval.
Dr Antonakakis said even so, the Spanish economy would be enormously helped if tourism income was shared across the country rather than retained in the Costa regions.
Sourced from Travel Weekly