Visit Greece—Greeks Will Be Glad You Did - Pacific Standard

Visit Greece—Greeks Will Be Glad You Did

Research shows tourism rises when people are worried about the economy.
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Athens, Greece. (Photo: Anastasios71/Shutterstock)

Athens, Greece. (Photo: Anastasios71/Shutterstock)

So, who's up for a week in Athens? In the wake of the Greek debt crisis, restaurants and hotels in the country have become, as Vox points out, very affordable for tourists. A Grexit would make them even more so. Meanwhile, Greek beaches remain just as beautiful, and Greek ruins just as historic. But will locals welcome foreigners looking to take advantage of the country's weak position?

It seems they likely will, according to research.

You might think that people would worry about their traditions getting Disney-fied and commercialized, but it turns out researchers are more likely to harbor those thoughts than actual locals are, according to a 2014 paper by tourism researchers Dimitrios Stylidis and Matina Terzidou. In fact, locals in destination towns from Colorado to Thailand have told researchers they thought the industry actually helped them preserve their culture, by providing an economic incentive to do so. Tourists, after all, often want a bit of local color. Residents in popular vacation destinations are more likely to worry about tourists littering, harming the environment, and worsening traffic than about outsiders diluting the Old Way of Life.

You might think that people would worry about their traditions getting Disney-fied and commercialized, but it turns out researchers are more likely to harbor those thoughts than actual locals are.

In addition, several tourism studies have found that the worse off people perceive their local economy to be, the more welcoming they are of the tourism industry. It stands to reason, then, that Greeks might be especially friendly during this time of need.

As a concrete example, Stylidis and Terzidou surveyed 317 adults living in the seaport city of Kavala in northern Greece, where officials tried to bolster tourism after the worldwide economic downturn in 2008. At the time of the study, Kavala's unemployment rate was 25 percent, with one in 10 businesses in town having closed. In 2010, the city hosted more than 240,000 visitors, about four times the number of its own population of about 55,000.

Most of the survey respondents thought Kavala should continue to develop its tourism, that more tourists should come to Kavala, and that the city government should put more money into tourism, despite other budget cuts. The more worried respondents were about their city's economy, the researchers found, the more strongly they agreed that tourism was good for the city and the less they worried about tourists littering or being noisy. The high rate of support for tourism in Kavala persisted even among people who wrote in surveys that they neither worked in the industry nor had a family member who did. It seems many hoped that tourism would lift everybody up, even if only indirectly.

But does it really do that? That's a totally different question from what we've been considering here, but yes, tourism does tend to help local economies, at least in the short term and sometimes for the long haul, too. Still, locals may pin their hopes too high. "Studies conducted in developing countries/destinations ... found that residents tend to overestimate the economic gains and underestimate the costs (i.e. environmental) of tourism development," according to Stylidis and Terzidou.

But that's Greece's worry, not visitors'. Why not give Greece a break and take a vacation there? Just relax, enjoy the local culture, don't litter, and maybe try to tune out the news.

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