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Strategic foresight for Sea Tourism the path to reform

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Olympia Anastasopoulou, former Secretary-General for Tourism Policy and Development at the Greek Ministry of Tourism, Solicitor, LLM, MBA and Accredited Mediator

In the last three years, Greece has undoubtedly become the country with the highest number of yachts (professional and private), surpassing traditionally leading countries in this sector, such as France and Italy. However, this increased activity of yachting brings little revenue to the state fund, especially since its clients are mostly high-income individuals.

On the contrary, this overabundance of pleasure crafts sailing in Greek waters, especially during the summer months, causes serious problems that either immediately or in the long term can jeopardize this sensitive and at the same time sustainable tourist product.

All market players agree that recreational crafts should be charged upon entering Greece with a reformed and significantly increased fee, which will be calculated on the basis of their size, capacity to accommodate passengers and available beds, as well as their period of stay (berth/anchorage) in Greek waters.

With regard to port infrastructures related to tourism, and given that maritime tourism is a key pillar of development for the national and regional – local economy, the legislator reserved the competence of the special port infrastructures of tourist interest, as defined in Law 2160/1993 as in force, exclusively to the Ministry of Tourism. At this time, when the development of a National Strategy for the Development of Tourist Ports is just around the corner and the country’s tourism product is constantly evolving and enriching, a targeted policy in the sector of maritime tourism is considered not only appropriate but imperative.

To this end, the following issues of co-responsibilities/overlaps with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy are briefly mentioned on key issues concerning the location of special tourist infrastructures, especially those of the amended Law 2160/1993.

Tourist ports, in the context of the requirements for financing their upgrade from the Recovery and Resilience Fund, have been the subject of recent legislation, with laws 4926/2022, 4933/2022 & 4974/2022, through which substantial regulations were introduced in the existing legislative framework for their establishment, operation and licensing.

In particular, the following changes were adopted:

• Simplification of licensing (transition to the operating approval regime in accordance with the provisions of Law 4442/2016)

• Establishment of a procedure for legalization of existing tourist port facilities

• Possibility of increasing the building ratio within the licensed tourist ports, provided that certain compensatory benefits are granted to local communities.

HOWEVER, there is an incorporation within the Development Programs and Master Plans of Ports, as well as the Port Development Project Programs of port sections of “Mixed Use” that essentially constitute tourist port zones.

Indicatively, the cases of Rafina with the creation of a mixed-use port department of 162 boats, of which boats, pleasure crafts and yachts constitute more than 95% of the capacity and with the development of uses – services of a tourist port, as well as the case of Mytilene with the largest part of the old port providing mooring of tourist boats without any services.

Following the above and further taking into account:

-the shrinking of maritime tourism structures within the Ministry of Tourism (through Presidential Decree 127/2017 – Organization of the Ministry of Tourism, and the abolition of the Directorate of Tourist Ports),

-provisions such as those of Law 4150/2013 “Reconstruction of the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean and other provisions”, as in force, through which it has acquired the responsibility of the overall planning and formulation of the National Port Policy,

-the special distribution of tourist uses, as provided for in Presidential Decree 59/2018 [In special categories of uses / 15. Tourist accommodation, facilities of special tourist infrastructure and other tourism enterprises (Law 4276/2014). / 26. Public Transport Facilities: – 26.11. Port zones for passenger, commercial, fishing, industrial and tourist activity, marinas], the authority of the Ministry of Tourism in the sector of maritime tourism infrastructure is most certainly challenged, a problem further augmented by the relevant provisions of Presidential Decrees 77 and 82 of 2023 for the imminent transfer of the relevant competences.

Taking into account all the above, as well as from the experience derived from my service as Secretary General for Tourism Policy and Development, I believe that the primary objective in order to address the issues highlighted should be, on the one hand, the legislative establishment of maritime tourism as an Independent Executive Structure, so that maritime tourism planning is drawn up and executed by an ad hoc competent body, and on the other hand, the removal of overlaps/ ambiguities related to the exercise of competence in this regard:

The current situation produces both legal uncertainty for citizens/investors, and also greatly hinders the achievement of the strategic and operational objectives of a key sector for our country, with excellent prospects for further growth and contribution to GDP.

To sum up, tourism policy and development in maritime tourism should be perceived as a coherent set of competences relating to the specific forms of tourism it includes, as well as the location of tourist ports within the framework of a maritime tourism policy, in order to allow for a uniform legislative, regulatory and substantive treatment of issues existing or arising in the maritime tourism sector.

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