Dimitrios Skiadas1, Sofia Boutsiouki2 & Eleftheria Ftaklaki3

1. Department of International and European Studies, University of Macedonia, 156 Egnatia, 54636 Thessaloniki, Greece,

2. Department of International and European Studies, University of Macedonia,  156 Egnatia, 54636 Thessaloniki, Greece,

3. Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean, Administration Building, University hill, 81100 Lesvos, Greece,





The paper examines the prospects of multilevel governance in the case of cultural tourism strategy in Greece. Besides the analysis of the relevant EU policy framework and priorities, the paper analyses the Greek national strategy on cultural tourism. The paper uses the South Aegean Region as a case study and examines the potential implementation of a new governance model, of a multilevel and participatory nature, in the field of cultural tourism, capable of establishing a shared vision and a strong sense of ownership among regional and local actors.

Key Words: Cultural tourism, Governance, Greece, EU



This paper explores the possibility of developing a multilevel governance model with regard to –especially cultural– tourism in Greece. The content is organised in the following parts: first, the EU policy framework regarding tourism is analysed and its main priorities over the years are highlighted. Then, the paper focuses on the basic characteristics of the Greek tourism policy and uses the region of South Aegean as a case study in order to examine the feasibility of multilevel governance in tourism development. Finally, the paper, based on the European and the national approach regarding a tourism policy agenda, attempts to designate a model of multilevel governance that would be able to deploy the existing advantages, as well as the potential of public and private stakeholders in the field of cultural tourism.



For many years tourism remained at the periphery of the European policy interest, although it is one of the most important sectors of activity due to its association with significant economic and social outcomes, as well as to its strong impact on the region’s image in the world. In 1984, the Council emphasised the need for the tourism dimension to be taken into consideration in the Community's decision-making process on the basis of consultation between member states and the European institutions. It also set the initial guidelines that would appear in the tourism policy framework during the following years, while it clarified that, although the main responsibility for tourism lies with the member states, the Commission could submit relevant proposals to the Council (Council of the European Communities, 1984). The change in the approach was evident; tourism was officially recognised as an action useful for the European integration process that should be dealt with by the member states and supranational institutions (Estol & Font, 2016).

The first time that a European Treaty mentioned tourism was in 1992, after the Maastricht Treaty amendments. The Treaty for the European Union regards it as a policy field with significance for economic development and sustainable growth, as well as for the improvement of employment performance, living standards, social cohesion and solidarity among member states. As a result, the Council introduced a 3-year action plan for the development of tourism and set a budget of 18 million ECU, as well as the criteria of reference for the suitability of measures. Moreover, it made special reference to cultural tourism that could enhance the importance of cultural heritage and facilitate the better knowledge of cultures, traditions and ways of life of Europeans. Moreover, it recognised the need for initiatives supporting the development of new European cultural tourism routes in cooperation with state, regional and local authorities, the creation of networks of professionals (tourist operators, cultural institutions), and the exchange of experiences (Council of the European Communities, 1992).

Linking culture with tourism in an EU context should not be a surprise. From the early 1970s onwards, the EEC institutions sought to develop, even without a legal basis in the Treaties, cultural initiatives in order to shore up popular support for European integration. The early attempts were cautious and largely symbolic, such as the European Community Youth Orchestra, the European Sculpture Competition and, in 1985, the European City of Culture Competition, with Athens being the first capital to be awarded the title. In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty introduced Art. 128 in the EC Treaty (now Article 167 TFEU), thus allowing the EU to take direct action to “contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”. This action was limited to the adoption of policies (usually in the form of recommendations) and incentive measures. The most significant political initiative was included in the European Commission’s 2007 communication on “A European Agenda for Culture in a Globalising World”. The Agenda identified overarching EU cultural objectives, designed to focus future European activity in the cultural field, and for its consideration of how the Commission’s ability to formulate effective cultural policies and integrate cultural concerns into its other policies might be improved (Craufurd Smith, 2011). One of these policies has been the EU policy on tourism.

In 1995, a “Green Paper on Tourism” analysed the added value of tourism for the Community and underlined its importance for the reinforcement of the economic and social cohesion, the sustainable development and the promotion of the European identity. In addition, it investigated the possible scenarios for the Community’s future role as regards tourism and raised questions about the formulation of a tourism policy, which would mainly be used in order to coordinate information exchanges and to supplement tourism-related state actions (European Commission, 1995). Later on, in 1997, the European Parliament recognised the role that could be exercised by tourism in the European unification process and included it in the areas to which the procedure of codecision should be extended (European Parliament, 1997).

It was the Lisbon agenda which gave a new impetus to the Union’s actions by proactively promoting the open method of coordination as an instrument of governance, thus affecting the process of developing a European tourism policy. The Commission played an essential role in the consolidation of the growth and sustainability objectives in the tourism sector within the framework of multilevel governance. In 2001, it introduced specific measures fostering the interface and the development of partnerships between the European institutions and various stakeholders from the tourism industry, the civil society and the national, regional and local authorities under the open method of coordination approach (European Commission, 2001). Similarly, in 2006 it introduced a renewed EU tourism policy that elaborated on the establishment of a stronger partnership approach for the inclusion of more potential actors for the development of tourism (European Commission, 2006).

However, it was not until the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 that the EU competence in tourism was established, which allows the EU to exercise a complementary role by supporting, coordinating or supplementing member states’ actions in tourism. The main objective of the European competence in tourism is to contribute to the creation of a framework for action and to enhance the coordination of European actors in order to increase the sector’s competitiveness and sustainability. This offers the EU the opportunity to establish specific measures –complementary to national ones– without requiring the harmonisation of the relevant national regulatory frameworks.

In 2007, the EU introduced an “Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism”, which elaborated on the challenge for European tourism destinations to find the right balance between economic activity, environmental protection and society. The Agenda highlighted the ability of tourism to foster synergies, thus allowing tourism destinations to respond on the basis of preserving their natural environment, cultural distinctiveness, social interaction, security and well-being of local populations. The Agenda invited all actors to respect specific principles in their effort to develop competitive and sustainable tourism. The approach of tourism should be holistic and integrated, taking into account its impact on society, economy and the environment. It should include long-term provisions, appropriate development planning, information availability and continuous monitoring, in order to improve the management of the risk of environmental or social damage, the allocation of costs and the limitation of the destinations’ capacity for tourism development and flows (European Commission, 2007).

The EU for many years associated tourism with its regional development and economic, social and territorial cohesion. The unification process together with the freedom of travel and the use of a single currency in many of its members, the adoption of its competence in tourism and the multiplication of its initiatives, as well as the sector’s inclusion in interventions targeting structural policies appear to have positively affected its dynamism, but they could not ensure the final outcomes (Lehmeier, 2010). In April 2010, the EU Ministers of Tourism adopted the “Madrid Declaration”. The Declaration underlined the need for a consolidated tourism policy framework with the support of member states and proposed the basic directions for action (Council of the European Union, 2010), but no references to a coherent tourism strategy were included.

Soon, the European Commission introduced its anticipated proposal for a renewed tourism framework that aspired to make Europe world’s first tourist destination. Tourism policy is clearly connected not only with the sector’s prosperity, but also with concerns relating to social matters, territorial cohesion and the protection of and capitalisation on natural and cultural heritage. The Commission highlighted the need for the EU to adapt to the ongoing social developments and to confront the constraints arising from the sector’s structural characteristics and the conditions in the socioeconomic context. On one hand, tourism policy is called on to consider the changes in the demography and the economic capacity of individuals, which affect their behavior as tourists; on the other hand, global competition obliges the EU to improve its attractiveness especially through the transformation of its tourism strategy and the diversification of the tourism product and of the target groups. Also, new dimensions were added to the tourism policy agenda, which should not be overlooked: environmental awareness, adaptation to the digital era and changes in the consumer and the production models can benefit European tourism by contributing to an innovative approach of its focus and organisation. For this reason, the European institutions put forward the priorities under which future actions favouring tourism should be promoted (European Commission, 2010):

a. Stimulate competitiveness in the European tourism sector.

b. Promote the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism.

c. Consolidate the image and profile of Europe as a collection of sustainable and high quality destinations.

d. Maximise the potential of EU financial policies and instruments for developing tourism.

The new approach contributed to the development of an implementation rolling plan, which required the collaboration of public authorities, tourism associations and other public/private stakeholders. Greater priority was given to particular fields of interest: increasing tourism demand from within the EU and beyond; improving the range of tourism products and services on offer; enhancing tourism quality, sustainability, accessibility, skills and ICT use; enhancing the socioeconomic knowledge base of the sector; promoting Europe as a unique destination; mainstreaming tourism in other EU policies (European Commission, 2010/updated 2013).

In general, the policy framework that was introduced in 2010 by the EU had a complementary role to the member states’ policies and tried to coordinate their efforts to increase the added value of tourism, provided that all stakeholders remain firm to their commitments and have the necessary capacity to work together for the common cause. Furthermore, the official texts set the main lines of action for the implementation of the priorities and led to new initiatives for tourism development, such as the “European Strategy for more growth and jobs in coastal and maritime tourism” (European Commission, 2014). The particular type of tourism had been included in the five policy sectors with high potential for jobs and growth, which were identified by the “Blue Growth” strategy in 2012, and was highly regarded for its significant contribution to the sector’s sustainability and added value. Cultural tourism is especially referred to in the strategy; it is valued as a generator of development, growth and jobs both at the European coastline and inland itineraries (European Commission, 2012).

The EU initiatives were supplemented by the activation of private stakeholders, who announced the “Tourism for Growth and Jobs Manifesto” in 2017 (see details in 41 stakeholders joint forces with other representatives of the tourism sector, 40 members of the European Parliament and 70 members of the European Committee of the Regions, in order to set the priorities for the coming years. The Manifesto proposes 44 interventions that are organised in 8 distinct axes: competitiveness, digitalisation, good governance, joint promotion, reduction of seasonality, skills and qualifications, sustainability and transport connectivity.     

Although over the years the European Union has been involved in the formation of supportive actions targeting tourism in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, until today it lacks a comprehensive strategy on –cultural especially– tourism. It limits its interventions to the construction of a tourism policy, which is implemented at national, regional or local level, and to targeted actions that affect the tourism product in its various forms. Consequently, the need for an umbrella strategy able to include all aspects of tourism development and at the same time to allow regional and local stakeholders to act with relative autonomie remains strong.



3.1. Historical Overview

Greece, since the beginning of the 20th century, has been a place of attracting visitors from all over the planet, due to its geophysical location and comparative advantages, its natural beauty, its rich cultural heritage and the temperament of its inhabitants, with their spirit of hospitality and respect for diversity.

The first organised effort of a Greek state structure for the management of tourism took place in 1914 in the form of the independent Office (Art. 15, Law 241/1914), which, however, due to the First World War, did not operate until 1918, when it was reactivated under Law 1698/1919, as the Independent Office of Foreign Affairs and Exhibitions. In 1929, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) was established as an independent public legal entity, under the supervision of the Ministry of National Economy. Its legally defined purpose was to strengthen and promote the coordination of the actions of any public, municipal or community authority, private bodies and businesses in tourism, both within and outside Greece. In 1935, a Supreme Council of Tourism was established. It was abolished in 1950. Since its inception, the GNTO has undergone several stages. It was abolished in 1936 (Law 45/1936) and was replaced by the Sub-Ministry of Press and Tourism, which was also abolished in 1941 and had its responsibilities transferred to the Ministry of National Economy under the Legislative Decree 19/1941). In 1952, the first systematic program for the development of Greek tourism is drawn up within the framework of the Marshall Plan. The Ministry of Press and Tourism was re-established in 1950 (Law 1565/1950) and the GNTO’s supervision was entrusted initially to the Ministry of Finance and then to other ministries such as the Ministry of Coordination (1968), the Ministry of the Government’s Presidency (1974) and the Ministry of National Economy (1985). In 1989, the independent Ministry of Tourism (Law 1835/1989) was established and was responsible for the GNTO’s supervision until this Muinistry’s abolition in 1991 (Presidential Decree 417/1991), when the Ministry of Finance took over its supervision once again. The Ministry of Tourism was re-established in 1993 (Presidential Decree 459/1993) and re-entrusted with the GNTO’s supervision. In 1996, the GNTO’s supervision was transferred to the Ministry of Development, which was created from the merger of the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Technology and the Ministry of Trade (Presidential Decree 27/1996), while in 2000 the General Secretariat for Tourism (Law 2837/2000) was established within the Ministry of Development. The Ministry of Tourism was again restored with the Presidential Decree 122/2004, with the responsibilities of the General Secretariat for Tourism of the Ministry of Development, and subsequently the Ministry of Tourism Development was established under Law 3270/2004 and the GNTO’s supervision was transferred to it (Mylonopoulos &  Kondoudaki, 2011, pp. 207-209).

In 2009, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was created with the merger of the Ministries of Culture and Tourism Development (Presidential Decree 186/2009) and in 2010 the General Secretariat for Tourism was established in the new Ministry (Presidential Decree 15/2010). The Ministry of Culture and Tourism was abolished in 2012 (Presidential Decree 85/2012), following the re-establishment of the Ministry of Tourism. In 2015, the Ministry of Tourism was merged with the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness, the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean Sea and the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks creating the Ministry of Finance, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism (Presidential Decree 25/2015). Finally, in November 2016, the Ministry of Tourism was re-established (Art. 2 of Presidential Decree 123/2016).

This brief historical overview displays clearly an erratic and fragmented political understading of tourism, at least as a field of organised/institutionalised public policy.  

However, there are also other actors, apart from the GNTO and the relevant ministries/sub-ministries for tourism, that are complementary to the implementation of tourism policy, such as Local and Regional Authorities (municipalities, prefectures, regions), or professional bodies such as the Hellenic Hoteliers Federation, the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), etc.

In terms of the various types of tourism that were developed in Greece during the historical course of the modern Greek state, one may identify mainly sightseeing tourism, while during the period 1950-1965 cultural tourism also emerges in combination with sightseeing tourism, as many of the foreign visitors that arrived in Athens, departed from there to visit archaeological sites (e.g. Delphi, Peloponnese, Attica, etc.). Due to the internationalisation of demand, especially during the late second half of the 20th century, a new type was developed: mass tourism. It has been noted that “in the period 1965-1985 we have the development of organised tourism, numerical increase and spatial expansion of tourist infrastructure in our country. And since 1985, we enter the period of industrialised mass tourism, with the unplanned growth and the segmentation of tourism demand” (Tsartas, 2010, pp. 18-22).

This situation set the main standards of tourism demand trends in Greece as follows: mass organized tourism, covering the bulk of the tourist market and linked to the development of hotel units and tourist accommodation of various types, and addressing tourists that simply want to “enjoy the Sun and the Sea” and relax. This standard was essentially interconnected with tour operators and the “all inclusive” policy.


3.2. Development of Cultural Tourism in Greece

Culture creates significant and measurable external economies in tourism-related activities, primarily related to the hospitality and nutrition of visitors to tourist destinations, but also, more broadly, to a wide range of services ranging from transportation to trade. At the same time, culture has a distinct role as a "catalyst for creativity" as it improves the attractiveness and the brand name of a country, its regions and cities; it encourages research and innovation within the knowledge society and the new economy and ultimately creates more and better jobs, especially for young people.

Undoubtedly, cultural tourism is one of the fastest and most dynamic sectors in the tourism industry (Wang et al., 2008) and its demand in Europe has increased significantly over the last 50 years, as a new middle class society with relatively high levels of income and education has emerged.

Culture and cultural heritage constitute a strategic opportunity at local, national and European level, which supports innovative business initiatives with an emphasis on sustainable management and resource utilisation. The results of the implementation of coordinated and active policies in the field of culture, through a balanced combination of "hard" and "soft" highly specialised actions, are not confined to the economic strand, but they acquire a wider development dimension that includes education and excellence and has a direct and tangible impact on improving the environment and quality of life.

It is also a key driver for the development of special and alternative forms of tourism beyond cultural tourism, such as religious tourism, gastronomic tourism, hiking tourism, etc, which ensures the sustainability of resources, while it has a high added value as it relates to the “Economy of Experiences” (see Boswijk et al., 2012, for details).

Undoubtedly, over the years, the comparative advantage that highlights Greece's image in international affairs is its culture due to its long history, tradition and civilisation. Culture in Greece is interwoven with the history of the country as the country's centuries-long, intercultural journey has left its mark on every corner of the Greek territory. The high-value archaeological finds and monuments, the rich tradition and the customs of each region, the folklore and the myths combined with modern culture and various cultural events, create a unique canvas for the visitors that want to get to know Greece through its culture.

The development of a type of tourism that promotes diachronic Greek values ​​and is directly connected to the culture of Greece, which guarantees the high added value of Greek culture in its evolution over time, was expressed in the national tourism policy during 2009-2012 through the establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism was the Greek state body whose task was to protect, preserve and promote cultural heritage, as well as to develop the arts in general in Greece. The Ministry's decentralised services consisted of Antiquities Services, newer monuments Services and museums, forming a wide network throughout the Greek territory. It was also responsible for all aspects of tourism development in the country. However, despite the importance of this combined ministry, which came from the merger of the Ministry of Tourism with the Ministry of Culture, it was treated with caution by the representatives of the tourist bodies, who expressed their concerns that the actual contribution of tourism to the national economy might be overridden (Kousounis, 2009), thus leading to its abolition in 2012.

It is interesting to note that both the tourism bodies and the administration authorities have unilaterally turned their interest to the achievement of the numerical target related to the volume of arrivals and overnight stays, without any substantial reflection on the impact of this political choice on the economy, as numbers can be impressively large but the relevant per capita income is disproportionate, as well as on the environment itself and the bearing capacity of the destinations. Therefore, the development and enhancement of specific forms of tourism is a classic answer to the question regarding destination viability, since the “specific” comes to address the problems caused by the “massive”. Cultural tourism is one of the most iconic forms of specific tourism, as it has all the qualitative features required to attract visitors with high standards. A most interesting relevant case study is the case of the South Aegean, a predominantly polynesian region with 48 inhabited islands, many of which are internationally recognised as the most popular destinations (such as Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos etc.).


3.3. Case Study: The Region of South Aegean – Culture as Development Leverage for Quality Tourism

3.3.1. South Aegean: A Popular Destination, with Significant Governance Challenges

The most important sector of the South Aegean economy, accounting for 78.48% of the total regional employment, is the tertiary sector, with tourism being the main activity of the overall economy. The dynamism of the tourism industry is such that places the South Aegean Region, along with the Regions of Crete, the Ionian Islands and Central Macedonia, among the four "tourist Regions" of Greece. In terms of employment, dynamism and prominent activity, the South Aegean Region can be described as a single "tourist zone" at national, European and international level. According to the analysis included in the Regional Operational Programme for the Spatial Unit of Crete - Aegean Islands for the 2007-2013 programming period, the distinct areas with almost exclusively tourist activity are mainly found in some islands such as Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, Syros, and secondarily in Naxos, Ios, Karpathos and Andros, while on the other islands this activity is mixed with permanent or holiday residence.

The strengths of tourism in the South Aegean are: the world's recognition of South Aegean as a tourist destination, the existence of important cultural resources of national and international scope (archaeological sites, museums, monuments and elements of urban and rural cultural heritage), the adequate and high-quality hotel infrastructure in the big islands, etc. Its weaknesses include the spatial overconcentration of tourist flow and activity, the seasonality of tourism (and seasonal unemployment), the limited exploitation of cultural resources and of innovative actions to promote them, the inadequate link between tourism and other sectors of the economy (primary sector, manufacturing), the lack of high-quality hotel services in smaller islands and the inadequate use of ICT in the tourism sector (Skiadas, 2016).

However, tourism also suffers from the effects of insularity; problems related to the interconnection of the islands (intra-regional communication), the lack of suitable and adequate infrastructures for interconnecting them, shortages in health care when dealing with emergencies in health and the absence of specialist doctors. All these factors largely affect tourism and its specific forms, with the situation being further aggravated particularly in the small islands. Also, the small size of most islands limits the potential for the development of scale economies, increasing the cost and timing of dealing with problems arising in relation to tourism activity. The lack of specialised personnel in the tourism professions, mainly in the smaller islands and in specific sectors (hotel staff, chefs, marketing specialists, etc.), and especially in those related to the design and implementation of actions for special forms of tourism (mountain guides, lifeguards, diving instructors, etc.), constitutes a serious problem for tourism in the islands of South Aegean.

The seasonality effect is another major problem for tourism in the South Aegean, as high demand is limited mainly to summer months, resulting in higher unemployment and reduced population during winter months. Indeed, in recent years seasonality has considerably increased, since the six-month tourist season has shrunk to include only summer months.

However, beyond the inherent weaknesses and challenges for the islands of South Aegean, the implementation of tourism policy faces a big two-fold deficiency: the lack of a decentralised governance model that assigns substantial responsibilities to regions and municipalities in terms of tourism policy, in combination with the absence of specialised structures and monitoring mechanisms of the tourism product, such as the Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO), the operation of the Sustainable Tourism Observatory and the Regional Tourism Council. Today, local and regional authorities are involved in promotional and communicative actions under the guidelines of the Ministry of Tourism. Any attempt by local authorities to create relevant structures has not been successful so far due to the absence of a supportive institutional framework. The attempt of the Municipality of Thira is an indicative example.

These institutional deficiencies result in a lack of continuity in initiatives for the creation and operation of structures or successful policies, which cause additional problems in the development of tourism. For instance, the model of the South Aegean Region’s tourism governance, although developed with a multiannual perspective (2013-2020), or the Sustainable Tourism Observatory in the South Aegean, established in 2014, were both dropped in 2015, following the change of political authorities in the region.

A significant institutional change would entail a decentralised model of tourism governance, where the central administration will retain the competence regarding legislation (implementing an insularity clause – “the effects on the islands of all public policies must be studied and taken into account before their implementation”) and national branding, while the regional and local authorities will have competence in the operation of integrated tourism planning structures and of a mechanism for the management and control of the tourist product. Increasing the responsibilities of local/regional institutions and developing cooperation networks can facilitate the development of tourism at regional and local level. It is important for the implementation of a tourism policy to take into account the concept of locality, as it is something that varies from region to region and is indissolubly linked with the characteristics of each place. 

According to the UNWTO, the stakes in tourism governance are about “….how and to what extent institutional capacity for coordination, collaboration and cooperation can be efficiently used as a governance practice (the efficiency of governance) to improve tourism information systems, helping to transform needs into solutions and opportunities for improving the measurement and analysis of tourism” (Durán Fuentes, 2013).

Tourism governance at local level is called upon to develop regulatory mechanisms linking the state, the local government, associations, the market and businesses. This means that tourism governance refers to the creation of appropriate institutional arrangements (structures and procedures) for the management and sustainability of tourism. It therefore involves organisational relations between a significant number of public and private stakeholders involved in the tourism sector. Clearly, a prerequisite for their implementation is the existence of a flexible, efficient and decentralised administrative management system involving the market and the citizens in this process and within a network (Sarantakou, 2014).

Specifically, for the South Aegean Region the challenge of tourism governance is particularly complex given the division of competences between the three levels of administration and local government, and the particular role of the Municipalities in the islands, since each island is a particular destination and it should be highlighted as such. The innovation of the South Aegean Region’s tourism policy in 2013-2014 was based on the creation of structures and mechanisms for the development and monitoring of the tourist product and the coordination of all relevant stakeholders, such as (Ftaklaki, 2013):

a. Regional Tourism Council: It is an innovative system in the framework of tourism governance, first implemented in the Region of South Aegean (February 2014), with specific responsibilities and aiming to function as the central advisory body that would coordinate vertically and horizontally the individual actions of all tourism stakeholders at local/regional level. It was a mechanism for consultation and decision making for the region’s tourist product. This body included representatives of the Regional Council, the Presidents of the Municipal Committees for Tourist Development and Promotion of the South Aegean Municipalities, representatives of the Greek National Tourist Organisation, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), the relevant chambers of commerce and of the regional tourism stakeholders, according to the relevant decisions by the competent authorities.

b. Sustainable Tourism Observatory: It was the first to be established in Greece in 2014 under the auspices of the World Tourism Organization (WTO). It operated as a South Aegean Region’s initiative in cooperation with the University of the Aegean and was co-funded by the EU, with its headquarters in Rhodes. The creation of the Observatory in the South Aegean island complex was a prerequisite for effective strategic planning as well as a basic precondition of any attempt to anticipate and formulate proposals for the improvement of tourism in the South Aegean region. Its function was based on the need to collect and process information on the basis of a specific methodology that would make it easier for regional and local decision-makers to make decisions, in order to improve on one hand business performance and on the other, the overall long-term benefit for the destination from tourism in terms of sustainability (Spilanis, 2014a).

c. Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO): It would aim at improving the provided public (common) destination management and marketing services, as well as at creating viable tourist destinations based on the principles of the Regional Tourist Organisation (RTO). The services provided by the destination include the promotion-information system for tourists either directly or through the tourist agents.  

d. Island Identity: Development of a strong island identity per destination by deploying existing capabilities to develop specific tourist products and to highlight the specific features and resources of each destination (both tangible and intangible) in order to diversify destinations. For this purpose, a thematic classification per island for the construction of an island identity was carried out. It included references to the particular elements that distinguish the islands not only from each other, but also from other island and non-island destinations, and would be capable of attracting tourists and of designating the ingredients of each island’s particular identity and image. The chosen categories, apart from the fact that they concern the two major groups of resources, namely nature and culture, are also linked to the specific themes that this study deals with, such as cultural, naturalistic-hiking, religious, congress and marine tourism (Spilanis, 2014b).


3.3.2. Cultural Tourism in the South Aegean

The overall goal of the proposed activities was to promote the South Aegean islands’ culture ranging from classical antiquity to modern artistic creation and to connect culture and tourism, with the aim of creating a strong and unique island identity in each island. This entailed: a) highlighting each destination individually; b) creating island clusters with similar strong features or monuments; and c) developing Cultural Routes and activities that highlight the natural, cultural and productive features of the islands and promote modern cultural (artistic) and creative production.

In the cultural sector, the disadvantages caused by insularity can be addressed by targeted actions aiming at: a) the use of innovative means for the promotion of cultural resources (creation of innovative museums or applications and theme parks); b) the development of cultural heritage, the enhancement of modern cultural creation by establishing or improving art schools; c) the emergence of alternative forms of tourism based on naturalism and culture, together with the development and strengthening of "green" archaeological routes and parks; and d) the improvement of networking between islands to showcase their cultural resources and activities (cultural trips, large-scale network events, museums network).

Culture also provides the background for the development of island business activity areas, which contribute decisively to income and employment creation and to the provision of quality cultural services to the general public. It is imperative to prioritise actions aiming at: a) the promotion and capitalisation of cultural heritage (e.g. protection, visibility and promotion of archaeological sites and monuments, facilitation of tourists who visit sites, monuments and museums by creating and enhancing island marine archaeological-tourist routes, etc.); b) the support of cultural and creative industries and modern culture (cinema, audiovisual media, publishing, design, visual arts, performing arts - music, dance, theater, etc.); and c) the support of modern Greek creativity by encouraging young artists to take professional initiatives in the field of visual and performing arts.

Finally, the cultural wealth of the islands is highlighted through the protection and promotion of monuments and archaeological sites selected according to strict criteria such as: a) the archaeological and historical significance of the site or the monument; b) their inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage list (such as the Asklepion in Kos); c) their function as tourist attractions; d) their inclusion in wider upgrading projects of urban areas or of sites of environmental importance.

All these elements can be used to enrich and diversify the tourist product of the islands. Thus Culture has become the growth leverage of the South Aegean Region’s tourism policy in order to attract quality tourism to the South Aegean islands. This concept was represented explicitly in the initiative to establish 2014 as Year of Culture of the South Aegean Region, an initiave followed by the relevant operational plan, including actions related to the promotion, development and production of cultural tourism.

More specifically, the main objective of the thematic Year of Culture (Ftaklaki, 2014) was the promotion of the South Aegean islands not only through the concept "Sea and Sun", but also through the richness of tradition, the cultural heritage and the civilisation of the South Aegean islands, highlighting the Region’s identity as an Archipelago of Culture, and gave tourism a new development course by capitalising the cultural wealth of the place. The main axes of the South Aegean Region’s thematic cultural year were the following:

·    Cultural Routes in the South Aegean: Cultural routes represent a new approach, as far as quality is concerned, to preserving cultural heritage by identifying a predetermined course in its monuments within a narrowly defined thematic, historical or conceptual context. Each cultural route incorporates components of cultural intangible or tangible heritage into a common system and creates new relationships between them, giving a new perspective that provides a more accurate view of history through the experience of the visit. More specifically, it was decided to develop routes that had as a core the Classical and Hellenistic Age, Ulysses' Routes, the sea routes of the ancient Phoenicians in the historical cities and ports of the Mediterranean, the medieval routes, the wine routes, the fire routes (a network of volcanoes), an industrial heritage network comprising pre-industrial and industrial complexes and buildings in the South Aegean, and the green routes (natural beauty areas, Natura areas, etc.).

·    Promotion of folk cultureRecording and promotion of local festivals and creation of a folk events guide serving as a cultural calendar.

·    Promotion of the creative industry: They constitute a highly dynamic and growing component of the economy of cities and countries and as such, in recent years, they attract the focus of international and European development strategies.

·    The development of a myth per island derived from the islands’ mythology, can strengthen not only the cultural character of the South Aegean islands, but also their cultural identity. The revival of myths, traditions and legends and their interconnection with the respective monuments and sites of the Aegean islands will contribute to the emergence of the destination identity and their educational value will be perceived. The selected myths were bundled and digitised in 3D animation.

In addition to these actions, other actions were also carried out in the South Aegean in cooperation with the Municipalities and cultural institutions, associations and other entities, highlighting to the maximum extent the multifaceted cultural dimension of the particular Region.

Overall, the thematic development of the Year of Culture for the Region of South Aegean in 2014 was successful and it set the foundations for futher actions in this field, such as the European Capital of Culture claim, made by the Municipality of Rhodes for 2019, and the successful petition put forward by the South Aegean Region to be awarded the title of the European Region of Gastronomy 2019. Such integrated initiatives contribute to a comprehensive approach to cultural tourism and can establish the South Aegean as a destination with qualitative features.




The Greek experience, as demonstrated above through the analysis of the South Aegean Region, in formulating and implementing public policies and specific projects in the combined fields of culture and tourism, requires the development of a governance scheme that will encompass elements fitting to both these fields.

First of all, it is necessary to define what is a governance scheme in order to avoid any misconceptions with similar notions, notably the notion of government. Governance can be defined as a set of actions by institutions and actors, involving input from both the public and private sector, contributing to the formulation and implementation of public policies, leading to the production, in common or separately, and enactment of norms, rules and laws for the society. It is an activity based on the complementarity of actions between public and private actors. This complementarity is also expressed as a form of competition between the actors involved (Skiadas, 2017, pp. 111-125 and the references therein).

In other words, a scheme of governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, how other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered. It reflects the economic, social, cultural and political system in which it exists. Typically there are four types of governance (Hall, 2011), ranging from hierarchies (state governance) to markets (essentially private economic actors and their associations) to networks (dominated by various forms of public-private partnerships and associations) to communities (governance at the most local level with direct public involvement).  

Given that state actors claim a dominant role in being competent in formulating policy in fields such as tourism and culture, usually the hierarchical model is employed in order to identify the position of tourism and culture in the overall public policy agenda, and, based on that, to plan and implement policies driving positive social and environmental change by providing a more meaningful role for host communities. However, interesting findings have been noted, with regard to tourism, into governance on networks and communities; the former, because the organisations that are set up to direct tourism development and its marketing are almost exclusively constituted of partnerships that involve public and quasi-public sector organisations and tourism business interests, while the latter are advanced as the solution to ensuring that benefits from tourism are maximised for the local population and the conservation of the environment (Joppe, 2018).

Governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, how

other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered”

(Institute on Governance, n.d.). Hall (2011) identied four types of

governance, ranging from hierarchies (state governance) to markets

(essentially private economic actors and their associations) to networks

(dominated by various forms of public-private partnerships and asso-

ciations) to communities (governance at the most local level with direct

public involvement)In other words, “Governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, howThe first three all tend to buy into a neoliberal

Based on these conceptual approaches, there are certain factors that need to be taken into account when establishing the parameters of such a governance scheme with regard to cultural tourism. The first factor is that in Greece, the policy fields of culture and tourism, while being substantively interconnected, institutionally they have been developed, each in a separate governance framework that has been, throughout the years, characterised by sectoral barriers, not allowing for formal interactions. This option, as reflected by the existence of two separate ministries, which have had only a very brief period of time in a single institutional scheme, as demonstrated above, has led to the development and implementation of policies in the respective fields that do not take into account the possibilities of interaction amongst them. The result is the lack of a formal public policy on cultural tourism. There are only actions, sometimes formulated into programmes, that are treated as strategy, thus allowing for the understanding that cultural tourism (and perhaps any other form of tourism) has as its main aspect, the economic dimension of the activities involved, given that the relevant debates on such programmes are focused on their financial elements (sources of funding, cost-benefit analysis, expenditure level, etc.). Thus, there is a plethora of governmental papers proving the focus on tourism's economic contributions above all else and the main volume of tourism policy is focused for instance on how to increase revenues from visitors, and more specifically international overnight tourists. Hence, where national or regional policies exist, these are focused on a better understanding of the tourist markets, their potential, catering to their needs, and strategies to attract them. On the contrary, there are limited but notable examples of integrated attempts of adopting a more general approach in formulating a policy on culture and tourism, one of them being the Strategic Plan for the development of cultural tourism in the region of South Aegean “2014: Year of Culture".

Furthermore, consideration must also be given to the status of both tourism and culture as fields of policy that are included in the complementary competences of the EU. This means that the institutions of the EU have a limited competence in addressing policies in the field of cultural tourism, as they are entitled only to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States (see Art. 6 TFEU). This means that the EU’s interventionist capacity is very limted as the institutional arsenal of the EU in producing policies and legal texts, i.e. the ordinary legislative procedure as defined in Article 294 TFEU, cannot be employed in the fields of culture and  tourism. The “Community Method”, involving the sole right of the European Commission to initiate legislation, the co-decision power between the Council and the European Parliament, and the use of qualified majority voting in Council, is not a scheme of regulatory governance that the EU may use in the fields of culture and tourism. In other words, the EU activity in these fields cannot lead to the harmonisation of the Member States’ respective laws or regulations (Rossi, 2012).

On the contrary, a more intergovernmental method is applicable, which entails the following features: the Commission's right of initiative is shared with or given exclusively to the EU countries, the European Council often plays a key role in setting policy orientations which the national authorities have to follow, and their actions are monitored and evaluated as successful or not by their peers within the Union, the  Council generally acts unanimously and the European Parliament has a mainly consultative role. This is known as the “open method of coordination”, a governance scheme which has been articulated as a means of coordinating national action within the EU context, without crossing the limits of EU competences (Craig & De Burca, 2008, pp. 150-154).

Furthermore, another factor to be taken into account entails the multiple layers of authority which exist, at national level, with regard to the distribution of competences between the central, regional and local authorities in the fields of culture and tourism. There are various models of such distribution, ranging from complete centralisation of competences to central authorities (Ministry, National Organisation, etc.) to complete decentralisation of competences to the regional or local authorities, depending on the national traditions and understanding of governance in every state. The multi-level governance experience in the EU in fields such as the EU Cohesion Policy or the Common Agricultural Policy, may serve as useful examples of formulating a balanced scheme of governance and this balance will be two-fold: Horizontal, i.e. a balanced distribution of competences between the EU authorities and the national authorities, and Vertical, i.e. a balanced distribution of competences between the central, regional and local authorities of each country. Employing the concept of the partnership principle - well established in the field of EU Cohesion Policy (European Commission, 2016) - may provide an innovating approach to the formulation of a governance scheme focusing in the fields of culture and tourism and their combination.

Any possible objections to such a scheme, based on the argument of the complementary nature of the EU’s competences in these fields may be addressed by the counter-argument that the concept of competence is a functional notion, not an organisational one. Therefore, it is the density of competences provided to the EU or the national bodies that will serve as a measure of controlling whether such a governance scheme is actually surpassing the formal division of competences between the EU and its member states, as enshrined in the Treaties.

In this context, the main aspects of such a governance scheme should be focused on the following elements:

·    Establish a solid and integrated organisational structure, which, at national level, may take the form of a Ministry for Culture and Tourism or of a Permanent Interministerial Committee for Cultural Tourism (as an executive body). Such an institution will have the political authority and the legal competence to prepare the relevant formal strategy in the field of cultural tourism, making use of the input provided by the existing bodies in both fields (culture and tourism). Futhermore, as a means of vertical distribution of authority, a multilevel governance scheme may be employed, by granting the regional and local authorities the legal competence of developing their own policies, within the framework of the national strategy on cultural tourism. Their role will not be limited in merely presenting annual or multiannual action programmes (participating in exhibitions, presenting media and advertising campaigns, etc.) but will be extended in producing actual political choices, focused on the cultural and touristic characteristics of their regions/areas, and involving the regional and local actors of culture and tourism, both from the public and private sector.

·    Develop a dedicated strategy with clear aims, objectives, indicators and actions for cultural tourism. This strategy may be formulated at EU level, in the form of policy guidelines, by the European Council (thus demonstrating the political importance attributed to the field in question) and then articulated and adjusted at national level. It is crucial to involve in the relevant proceedings, at both levels, EU and national, all culture and tourism stakeholders in order to capitalise from their input and create the necessary conditions for consensus “on the spot”, i.e. by those involved in the actual implementation of the policies. Ensuring the systematic and active involvement of cultural tourism’s private-sector stakeholders, is imperative in that perspective.

·    Prevent regulatory duplication and remove regulatory contradictions within the single market for cultural tourism services, by ensuring better coordination of policies and regulations affecting tourism among the various actors with regulatory competence, both at EU level (mainly in terms of policies’ contents) and, especially, at national level (mainly in terms of producing national legislation and rules in implementing the policies adopted)

·    Identify and promote good practices in cultural tourism, reflecting the experience gained by models of institutional development with verified added value such as the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) and the Cultural Tourism Observatory, all these supported by active research schemes, involving Universities, that may provide invaluable analysis of data and documentation of choices. Such schemes may serve as platforms of regularly monitoring and evaluating the performance and impact of the visitor economy, for instance on the overall economic performance in terms of accurate sustainability and employment data.

·    Enact and maintain an integrated and stable fiscal governance element, which will entail the following aspects: the provision of appropriate notice (at least two years) for any changes to relevant regulations (tax or other) affecting cultural tourism, the simplification of tax law and consumer protection law in terms of contents and ensuring their consistent enforcement, and the establishment of a transparent system of tax collection and the use of the tax revenue arising from the visitor economy, in order to establish the clear contribution of the cultural tourism in the Gross Domestic Income.

·    Provide sources of smart and sustainable funding or investment incentives to cultural tourism actors, in relation to their impact on growth and job creation, while taking into account the needs of visitors, workers, enterprises, at local, regional, national and European level.





The main point highlighted in this paper is the necessity as well as the possibility to develop an effective governance scheme that will allow the formulation and implementation of public policies and political choices in the field of cultural tourism. This scheme will involve both public and private actors, at all levels, thus activating all possible synergies and forms of cooperation, that will make the initiatives undertaken in the field of cultural tourism attractive and viable. The contents of the combined elements of culture and tourism require an integrated approach that will balance the substance of the options offered to all those visiting Greece as tourists of any form. This sort of governance focuses on the capacities of the tourist product as well as on the expressed or anticipated desires of the tourists. The modern traveler does not seek only to consume the various elements of tourist product (location, climate, hospitality, nutrition, etc), but also wishes to “live the experience”, to understand the environment (social, economic, natural, or even political) of the selected destination, and to feel that he/she becomes a part of it, even for a brief time frame. Therefore, the choices of  "experience trips" on behalf of the tourist are very frequent, as such trips are consistent with contemporary mentality and culture, according to which after having already covered the needs for survival and security, the quest for higher goals and deeper meanings in life arises, allowing the opportunities for self-realisation as described by Aristoteles! And cultural tourism  provides the concept as well as the means for such an experience.




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