Exploring the Relationship Between Traditional Settlements and Tourists Villages Through Sustainable Tourist Development


Dionysia Fragkou

Department of Interior Architect, University of West Attika, Athens, Greece




The socio-economic changes that took place over the last few years led to the diversification of consumer behaviour of tourists worldwide. As a result the limited time holidays is replaced with luxurious vacation, which is personalized and authentic, and respect the local culture and environment.

For this reason, the latest development laws aim to upgrade what tourism offers and preserve the environment, in order to improve the quality of the services offered and the hotel infrastructure.

Tourist villages are also considered part of the quality improvement of the hotel infrastructure, as well as the creation of high quality aesthetic facilities, quality infrastructure and high quality service. They are well-designed tourist structures with quality construction materials and equipment, large open spaces and a variety of activities. Their construction creates new residential environments in off-plan areas, intervening in the morphology of the place and the environment, trying to respond to the image of a traditional village.

On the contrary there are many traditional settlements with strong or less intense traditional elements that experience the results of abandonment and wear, without the financial capacity of their maintenance and development. They are active settlements, with few or more inhabitants, embedded in the natural environment and setting that bring memories and continue the traditions, the history of the place they belong to and preserve the local cultural heritage.

These settlements, through appropriate, sustainable and alternative tourism, can survive over the years by preserving their identity and thus contributing to the protection and enhancement of the cultural heritage of the place. The process of this development, attempts to formulate this project.

 Key Words: Traditional settlements, tourist villages, cultural heritage, alternative tourism




Tourism is an internationally economic activity with significant positive effects on growth and employment.  Infrastructure created for tourist activity contributes to local development, to the creation of new jobs but also to the preservation of existing ones. Furthermore, it is a factor influencing social development and sociability; it influences the natural environment and the use of natural resources participates in the promotion and valorisation of the cultural heritage.

The development of tourism in Greece has been defined so far by development laws that at the beginning focused their interest only on creating accommodation for tourists without being interested in social and environmental impacts. These laws promoted mass tourism and tourism creating serious social, environmental and spatial problems. For this reason, following the changes taking place at a global level, the latest development laws aim at upgrading the tourist supply through the protection of the environment, the quality upgrading of the services offered and the improvement of the hotel infrastructure



Greece, over the past few decades, from a limited range of tourist activities, which attracted few and with special interest tourists, evolved and became a major national industry (GTO)[1].  Thus, like many other countries, Greece was interested in promoting tourism without the corresponding interest in its quality. The pattern of tourism that prevailed in Greece and globally after 1970, organized mass tourism. The tourist offer was concentrated in certain regions of the country, with the main destinations being the islands and coastal areas (about half of the hotel units are located in Crete, Dodecanese and Main Greece), resulting in intense saturation (1).

  1. Malia, Crete. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kreta_-_Malia.jpg

At this time, the Greek hotel market was mainly based on small and medium-sized units, often family-owned companies with unskilled staff. So they had to compete with the large units of the countries offering the same product. These countries (due to their economic development) have the advantage of economies of scale, professional organization, operation, networking and promotion. That is why in our country the big tourist units were promoted. Thus, residential units are created; hotel complexes and tourist villages are set up with all-inclusive activities, with good or bad results from them (2). Through urban planning, uncontrolled and often illegal construction, coastal areas are often confronted with degradation of the natural and urban environment. The increase in large A-category tourist units has caused rapid economic development of roundabouts, as well as negative impacts from the creation of tourist areas without design, specifications and infrastructure.

  1. Hotel resort. https://c.pxhere.com/photos/a3/c2/trees_hotel_restaurant_crete_ swimming_pool_greece-1071988.jpg!s

According to the new Development Law 3908/2013, the 1 and 2 star units cannot benefit from any subsidy. However some of the 3 star units can benefit from them, but in vary few cases. Also, the Greek hotel market faces the challenge of prolonging the tourist season since the hotel occupancy in 2006 in the whole of Greece is close to or exceeds 50% only in June, July, August and September, while in the rest months ranges from 25% to 44%. Recently, the Tourism Minister presented the five strategic axes of tourism policy that have attributed over the past three years. The extension of the summer tourist season, the opening of new markets, the promotion of new Greek destinations, the development of thematic tourism and the creation of an attractive framework for the attraction of investments focusing on quality. The same result is aimed at increased investments in 4 and 5 hotels from the beginning of 2016 as well as special tourist infrastructure such as tourist resorts and villages.

 Are "tourist villages" those infrastructures that will promote tourism in our country by ensuring the quality of the services provided alongside the social and economic development? What is the impact of their creation on the landscape and the resort? A recent example of relative resistance in Greece is the Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development (CSDP) for Tourism (2009). This relies on the necessity of sustainable tourism development in the country. It does not incorporate the notion of environmental carrying capacity as a policy criterion (Avgerino-Cologne, 2011) produces "spaces" for tourism. Those “spaces” are governed by the philosophy of intensification in the use of resources and areas, large and complex deployments, alteration of the identities of destination sites with the new "image imposition" (3).

  1. Mass tourism. https://c.pxhere.com/photos/90/af/beach_hotel_island_of_crete_ greece_mediterranean_sea_parasols_holiday_blue-1127676.jpg!s



Tourism development has many dimensions and dependencies. One of these is the relationship between host countries and the sending countries of tourists. The role of "tour operators" in shaping the country's tourism policy and development is decisive in this respect. In this way, certain types of tourist products - holiday packages - are being promoted and tourist areas are created that adapt to specific international demand standards[2]. The creation of a vacation package standardizes the services offered, providing security and organization to the tourist as well as predefined experiences. The visitor-tourist does not have a substantial contact with the place of visit, its culture, the host country, its customs and traditions.  They participate in a game of predetermined experiences and impressions played in an artificially shaped environment.

Landscape, space, architecture and aesthetics, created by the imagination of a particular creator, try to construct micro-environments and actions that could reflect the real life of a place. Only this place is adorned with modern and fine technical constructions, with pre-defined facilities and services (4). They seek, as P. Tsartas says, to live in this way, "same" or "different" to the way they live in their place of origin, and thus define the creation of specific tourist environments. In fact, the tourist resorts - villages are an extension of the characteristics of the modern urban centre and the tourist distributes his social and consumer habits spatially and temporally. At the same time, they try to combine on the same voyage a four-star holiday, staying in a rural village and maybe ecotourism. All this, without direct contact or contact with the place of visit and its inhabitants, except for the workers in those businesses that are often not from the same place[3].

  1. Tourist village. https://c.pxhere.com/photos/58/5d/greece_hotel_holiday_luxury_ house-872570.jpg!s

This way of perceiving and contacting the visited area is also reflected in the financial level of the transactions they make. This reduces the benefits that can be generated by tourism, both socially and economically, for the receiving region. This is a conservative view of the tourist experience, where visitors enjoy comfort, quality and safety without participating in local activities and lifestyle, living in essence prefabricated experiences through a directed authenticity in supposedly traditional villages, participating in the preservation of the idea of mass tourism. This explains why tourists who regularly visit these resorts ultimately find it difficult, through the giant homogenization business, to differentiate spatially the final choice of the place they will travel[4].



Changes in the values, principles and standards of modern society, as well as the socio-economic changes taking place on a global scale, also affect tourist preferences. In this context, travel stereotypes are also modified, which in turn affect the spatial organization of tourism flows and development. The modern tourist has nothing to do with the tourist of the 1960s.  This is generally a seasoned traveller who has travelled to several tourist destinations. As a result, the tourists are more demanding in terms of quality of services and service they expect at a destination[5]

International studies[6] predict that a prospective visitor should be able to personalize each aspect of the experience of his stay and the services offered to him. New trends and growth prospects require tourism to be turned from mass tourism, to quality or alternative tourism and from tourist product to tourist experience. The traditional way of touristic separation will disappear and be substituted by a series of customized services in the context of creating an integrated service model. This means that future guests will be able to adapt every aspect of their travel experience, including technology, hotel services, rooms, travel, pricing and communication, to their demands. It is also worth noted that the objective should not be to reduce costs and prices in order to compete, but to increase the value and quality of the product offered and the hotel services for consumers[7].  Education and culture are activities that inspire the visitor to local and cultural events and have an important role in the final destination selecting. Thus, more and more destinations focus on active development of various leisure time activities. They also seek to offer a different lifestyle, the experience of stay[8].

Another element that holds an important place in the world is awareness of environmental issues. Nowadays, citizens-consumers all over the world are more informed and show an increasing awareness of environmental issues. Many tourists are already taking into consideration the “carbon footprint” (“ecological footprint”)[9]    that their journey leaves on the destination and the time is near when this print will determine the choice of destination, means of transport and accommodation. It is no coincidence that an increasing number of hotel businesses foster environment friendly solutions and policies and promote an environmentally friendly mentality. The traveller now approaches vacation in the sense of self-fulfilment, experience and “good living”. For those consumers the acquisition of experience and the “exclusive” and customized services are more important than anything else. So, the sustainable development through tourism can play a major role in preserving and upgrading cultural and natural heritage, in an increasing number of areas, ranging from arts to local gastronomy, local architecture, or biodiversity conservation

The natural and cultural heritage, the idiosyncratic and lively cultures are the greatest tourist attraction. The internal and international tourism remains one of the most important factors of cultural exchange as it offers personal experiences for whatever has survived from the past, but also for contemporary life and the society of others. However, intensive or inadequate tourism management and the related growth may harm nature, integrity and their dominant characteristics. In this way, the ecological structure, the cultural features and the lifestyles of the host communities may also be degraded, like the visitors experience in this place (5).

  1. Traditionalvillage https://c.pxhere.com/photos/17/41/santorini_white_homes _the_crater_rim _greece_cyclades_white_houses_holidays-691710.jpg!d

A large number of potential tourists around the world seem to prefer to differentiate by choosing to escape from everyday life and enjoy authentic experiences in a slow rhythm and away from the hordes of tourists. «Slow travel»[10]   holiday and the sharp rise in rural tourism are two such examples. This kind of vacation facilitates the development of small units which enable travellers to taste daily life and/or nature in the places they visit. This can be achieved by hotels characterized by their small number of rooms, unique architecture and decor, provision of personal services and food of high quality, as well as the benefits of new technologies[11]. But how can the new trends be integrated in the existing shells and how can the incorporation of tourists-visitors in the existing structures be achieved so as to enable them to experience an authentic stay?



            The main priorities of modern state policy on tourism are undoubtedly cultural tourism. As The International Council of Sites and Monuments (ICOMOS 1999) defined, the cultural tourism  includes  “any activity that allows visitors to experience discovering other people's lifestyles, allowing them to get to know their customs, traditions, natural environment and ideas and to have access to places of architectural, historical and archaeological interest or any other kind of cultural value”.[12] In this context, the ΙCOMOS replaced the previous Charter on Cultural Tourism in 1999 with a more comprehensive institutional means that recognizes the relationships and interactions between tourism and cultural heritage. The Charter contains a broader definition of cultural heritage than the archaeological sites and the historically-structured environment. It integrates the non-material heritage, i.e. the cultural traditions and collective memory of each community. It also focuses on the importance of involving the local or host community in the design and management of cultural tourism, due to their proximity to the tourist attractions and because of the fact that tourism is part of their daily lives.[13]

The tendencies to return to the traditionally built environment and the opposition to the pattern of mass tourism have led in the past few years to the development of traditional settlements through cultural tourism. The main benefits of cultural tourism are the protection and enhancement of the cultural resources of the area being developed. Other advantages are the elongation of the tourist season as it is not affected by weather conditions, the respect for the environment as it does not change it, the sustainability due to the reuse of existing structures, the attraction of high income and educational visitors who usually extend their stay in a particular place and participate in more activities.[14]

The Greek Tourism Organization, in an attempt to utilize the traditional settlements, promptly realized their importance and undertook their preservation and utilization; their preservation, not as a lifeless museum exhibits or ruined monuments, but as a dynamic part of modern life, that would play an important role in tourism and the country's development. Thus in 1975, a program was set forth aiming to preserve, restore and maintain buildings and ensembles of traditional architecture and to shape them in hostels or buildings of common use, such as museums, restaurants, community offices etc. This would be a pilot project for other settlements. The program originally included six settlements: Vathia in Mani (Peloponnese) Vizitsa (Pelion), Mesta (Chios), Oia (Santorini), Papingo (Epiros) and Fiskardo (Kefalonia).[15]  Unfortunately this organized state effort failed, despite the enthusiastic acceptance of both Greeks and foreign visitors.

Today, this process is re-launched through private initiative and in many cases it seems to appear to have positive results. The use of existing structures of traditional settlements (whether or not characterized, in whole or in part), free of additional and newcomer elements and through the rational use of space and natural resources, attempts to make the stay part of an authentic experience. Buildings or building complex within the coherent section of traditional settlements, that had abandoned and led to collapse are reused. Through their rehabilitation, they participate in preserving the physiognomy of the settlements, highlighting the place, the landscape, the culture and the collective memory. Remarkable are also attempts to use experiential spaces of buildings and complexes through participation in everyday life of the place visited residents.

Based on the principles of alternative tourism, reuse and redevelopment of existing buildings and complexes and their use as hosting units, as well as the active and experiential participation in activities and local events and scenery give the opportunity of an authentic experience of living in buildings and environments of local character is provided, leaving their mark on Greek architecture reality. The potential use of buildings and architectural ensembles or parts of traditional communities, can provide an authentic experience of discovering the lifestyles of other societies and people. Integration into the local setting, daily contact with residents, participation in the manners and customs of the host place and stay in places similar to the residents places, interspersed in the settlements, can give the answer to an authentic experience of stay and, through this, to promote the traditional architecture and cultural heritage of a place.

Many times, however, the development of these settlements is as unregulated and unplanned as that of tourist resorts with impact both on the environment and on society. The lack of control, the lack of development management institutions, and the fashion and consumer habits of visitors often led to forms similar to those of mass tourism (6). The consequence of these is the overexploitation of natural resources, the abandonment by the inhabitants of the primary sector, the alteration of local character and personal social relations. The traditionally built environment, that has become the pole of attraction of the region, acquires characteristics that are no different from those of the tourist resorts.[16]

6. Oia, Santorini.Free Images : pxhere.com

In the same context, spatial units of abandoned settlements can be rebuilt, using the traditional methods of building and re-using (White River). Through this process, they offer the opportunity to revive the conditions of habitation of previous decades and give life to an area that would otherwise go to a total desolation.[17] The deliberate lack of today's comforts attempts to convey visitors to virtual environments that reach the limits of the established experience. Without losing the whole effort its value, since these reconstructions do not burden the carrying capacity of the environment, the users of such settlements are more or less disconnected spatially and temporally from the current situation of the place they visit. The social relationships that are developed do not differ much from those of tourist resorts since there are no permanent residents but only visitors and seasonal workers. There are no active users of the place and really customs that one can live with, nor experiential experiences that can be discovered. "Certainly the use of the buildings as tourist accommodation of a kind of tourism that respects and promotes its very nature can only be judged in a positive way. Whether, the story being promoted will not constitute, beyond a certain point, a museum piece or sterile imitation of a long forgotten situation is something we have to wonder about.[18]



            Mass tourism has already created serious problems for local communities and the environment by uncontrolled tourist exploitation. The constant increase in tourists creates the need for more accommodation. Tourist resorts or villages, new or existing structures, attempt to meet these needs. The participation of the "living" traditional settlements is important. The rescue, preservation, exploitation and promotion of the traditional settlements of our country are not dealt according to their importance. In many cases interventions in relation to their preservation and emergence were made in the wrong way putting up the standard of mass tourism. However, in those settlements the interventions were done correctly, created tourist interest and contributed to the formation of a product which helped both the maintenance and preservation of the settlement itself, as well as the economic development of the same and the wider region. The promotion of cultural architectural heritage through traditional settlements, when this is done with respect for the history and the place, can attract high educational and economic level visitors and bring new Greek destinations.




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[1]   Greek Tourism Organization

[2] P. Tsartas, (2011),Society and Tourism

[3] As previous

[4] As previous

[5] K. Petrakos, 2011, Landscapes of mass tourism. Migration flows for job finding. Postgraduate diploma thesis.

[6] Hotels 2020: Beyond Segmentation, Fast Future Research

[7] Fragkou D., Georgiadou Z., Marnellos D.,(2015).THE INHABITATION EXPERIENCE AS A MEANS OF PROMOTING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF A PLACE. 1ST International Conference on Experiential Tourism. Santorini, Greece

[8] K. Petrakos, 2011, Landscapes of mass tourism. Migration flows for job finding. Postgraduate diploma thesis.

[9] See also http://www.footprintstandards.org (access 23/07/2011) This is a holiday in quiet places with relaxed

[10]This involves vacation in quite and calm places with a leisurely schedule, enjoying walks, local flavours, urban exploration of cities, etc.

[11]Frangou D., Georgiadou Z., Marnellos D., (2014) The Architectural Design as an effective aspect for the  improvement of the Tourist product, Journal of Tourism Research, Vol 8, pp. 12-29.

[12] N. Konsola. Strategic plan for cultural tourism for the South Aegean region

[13]A. Dimitsanou-Kremezi. (2004). The Revised Charter of Cultural Tourism and Articles that Ensure the Architectural Heritage, International Conference: Cultural Environment and Tourism: The role of the Architect, TECHNICAL TIMES, Pp 53.

[14] Spilanis, 2000, Tsartas 2003

[15] P. Bosekis-Didonis. Traditional Settlements and Tourism Development, GTO Program 1975-1995. The Example of Oia Santorini.

[16] P. Tsartas, Society and Tourism

[17] P. Petraki, M. Roukounakis, E. Kosmas, K. Goniotakis, V. Petraki, "Recording of the planning and architectural profile of the remarkable settlements of the Prefecture of Lassithi for their future integration in an institutional framework of protection", Lasithi Prefectural Authority, TEE -Act. Crete

[18] As previous