Tourism: solutions to evident problems
Tourism is usually regarded as travelling for recreation although this definition has been expanded in recent years to include any travel outside of one’s normal working or living area. Tourists are usually interested in the destination’s climate, culture or its nature. As far as mass tourism is concerned, one wants to visit works of art, taste new cuisines, precisely the same way an average tourist visits a country, but with the difference that mass tourism involves a great number of tourists. And therefore, organised tourism is now a major industry around the world.
Many national economies are now heavily reliant on tourism, such as Greece whose economy relies for 60% on tourism. Greece has always been late on an economical point of view, compared to most countries of the European Union. It still has a strong agriculture, a weak industry and the sector of service (which tourism depends on) is expanding every year, working against some of the actual problems in other sectors. A result of mass tourism, in a strictly environmental point of view, there is an evident damage caused to certain ecosystems, the difficulty to eradicate wildlife trade but also pollution.
The ecosystems are modified or interrupted as a result of tourist complexes that threaten for example wetlands and forests. Wildlife trade is most often in Greece, in the form of illegal fur sales, and souvenirs that are from endangered species. Moreover, some species are extremely threatened, by the risk of the loss of their habitat to tourism and again, the sale of illegal souvenirs. One example comes to mind to illustrate this phenomenon; most of the loggerhead turtle breeding sites on the beaches of Greece are destroyed by the pollution caused by mass tourism.
Mass tourism has also developed an important pollution in the air, because of the lack of rail network. A second broad problem caused by mass tourism is the urbanisation. In order to face the growing number of tourists who spend their holidays in Greece (or in a country of the Mediterranean), a lot of holiday resorts, infrastructures have to be built. At such a rate, within 20 years, the vast majority of the coast line will be urbanised. This process is costly, thus a lot of companies use cheap materials and an architecture that cannot be combined with the existing one.
Those numerous problems are quite recent, and consequently, few solutions have arisen. In the case of Greece, ideally speaking, tourism should diminish, or be more regulated and the sector of the industry sector should be more developed. An answer to the wildlife trade could be the implementation of stronger sanctions for purchasing and selling illegal leather goods. The pollution, which has taken a greater importance over the years, should be remedied with an upgrade and an extension of the rail network.
This would not only reduce the pollution but also enhance the access to some remote tourist areas. This being an expensive long term investment, perhaps a committee could vote the budget accorded to tourism, from the financial aid from the European Union. This process is nowadays existent but ineffective as this committee is working “against” the Greek government. In order to solve the urbanisation problem, the regions of Greece should try to keep in their new constructions, the charm and the tradition of the original houses and buildings.
The outside appearance should be more uniform, old fashioned, and the inside of the tourist accommodations with the comfort they have back home. In summary, the authorities should do a more effective job in neutralising the sales of illegal wildlife in all its forms. Moreover, the construction of a bigger and more modern railway system would benefit not only the tourists but also the locals. It is an investment for the future that could partially solve some of the pollution problems. Hopefully, some of these changes will occur in Athens, as well as in Greece in general, in order to proudly host the upcoming Olympic Games.