Strategies that can be implemented to improve the Socio-Economic Value of Tourism in Crete

Chapter 1: Introduction

The Mediterranean island of Crete is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world.  It’s warm weather, beautiful historic architecture, religious heritage and Greek history makes it a rich tourist hotspot for a wide range of tourist interests (Briassoulis, 2003).  It is with this in mind that we set out to explore the island in a study aimed at proposing the best alternative to improve the future of tourism in Crete.

According to Briassoulis (2003), Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and is also the largest Greek island. Since the 1960s, the island has experienced rapid development of tourism with many visitors from all over the world attracted to its rich cultural and historical heritage as well as the beautiful landscape and weather. Even though tourism remains the most important economic activity in the island, arguments have come up in the recent past that tourism in its current form is not only unsustainable, but also it does not earn the island the optimum economic returns it ought to generate (Metaxas, 2009). Review of the existing literature reveals that tourism is blamed for many environmental and socio-economic problems that affect Crete. While the proponents of increased development of tourism on the island continue to come up with strategies for further expansion of this important economic activity, an increasing number of critics and tourism planners are proposing a new, more sustainable approach to tourism. According to Metaxas (2009), one of the best approaches would be to explore approaches to tourism in Crete that is based on increasing competitiveness through the right kind of marketing. For example, it would be viable to put in place stringent measures on the conduct of tourism in the island to achieve long-term sustainability while increasing the value of tourism as a product, one such approach is niche marketing.

This report details out visit to the island of Crete and the tours we undertook in the various prime tourist destinations on the island to study the conduct and impact of tourism in those areas as well as collect the views of the locals about tourism. The report presents the methods used to sample respondents in the interviews, methods of data collection, and data analysis. All this information is found in the second chapter, which concludes with a methodological reflection. The third chapter presents detailed presentation of findings and their discussion. Chapter four presents the conclusion to the report and recommendations for the way forward in development of tourism in Crete.
Chapter 2: Methods and Data

This chapter presents the methods used in identification of respondents, sampling, collection of data, and its analysis in the study conducted when we toured Crete. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the methodology assumed and its achievements.
2.1 Sampling

In any kind of research, sampling must be carried out so as to identify the right sample of respondents from a population since all members of a large population cannot participate in a study because of limiting factors such as time and resources. Sampling is very important when carrying out surveys. According to Smith (2010), interviews are useful for collection of primary data from respondents. In this case, we only had four days to carry out the study in the field; with interviews being just one of the activities during the excursion. We had limited time and resources to interview many respondents and, therefore, had to decide on manageable samples. In this case, the study sought to get the views of three important groups of participants; residents, business people involved in the tourism industry, as well as tourists. This study involved interviews with a sample of 20 individuals spread over the towns we visited. Simple random sampling was carried out by just identifying respondents and approaching every individual we met in the field and asking for interviews. On the other hand, the interviews were also purposive in the case of business people working in the tourism industry because these were identified through their activities (Being in their business premises).
2.2 Data Collection and Analysis

This study involved four different methods of data collection, as detailed below.

    Observations: In all the destinations visited, observations were carried out and recorded in note books with emphasis on relevant information concerning tourism on the island. Observation also included photographing of features we found important or interesting in relation to tourism.
    Interviews: Identified respondents were interviewed in all the towns we visited in order to gather firsthand information from them about the issues under investigation. The interviews were carried out without use of pre-written interview guides because they were random and the respondents were not prepared for them.
    Questionnaires: Questionnaires were mainly administered to the residents of Malia. Although the plan had been to carry out systematic random sampling targeting every fifth member of the sampling frame (respondent), this was abandoned for simple random sampling because of the scarcity of respondents in this tow.
    Secondary data collection: The research group set out with the strategy to collect any secondary data we could obtain in all the sites we visited. Some of the data we targeted included guide materials from museums and other tourist establishment, writings detailing history, maps, advertisement material, local publication and any other relevant secondary material.

2.3 Methodological Reflection

Looking back on the methodology applied in data collection, it is evident that flexibility is imperative when planning for field research because conditions in the field are seldom as they are anticipated during planning. It can be concluded that the strategy to use four different methods of data collection was correct as it yielded important data and minimized risk of missing important information. For example, a lot of information was gathered through observation and collection of secondary data than through questionnaire surveys. Similarly, the flexibility applied in data collection proved useful. In the case of Malia where the researchers found only a few respondents than anticipated, change from systematic random sampling to simple random sampling made it possible to collect significant amounts of data.

Interviews as a method of data collection presented the researchers with a very good opportunity to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of situation in Crete because of the freedom it provided. Free conversation with respondents enabled them to open up and explain important issues they felt affected tourism and the island. The interviews also provided good opportunities to ask follow-up questions and get clarifications while being able to judge the respondent on the basis of body language. Finally, although at the end of the process the sample of respondents was not so large, the fact that data had been collected from various different towns means that the findings are reliable and can be generalized as representative of the island apart from the cases where they are for a particular town.
Chapter 3: Results and Discussion
3.1 Crete’s Cultural Heritage

The research excursion to Crete revealed the main factors behind its fame and high rating as a tourist destination. Through observation and interviews, the researchers were able to establish that the island has a rich cultural heritage that is represented in old structures, museums, religious buildings and agriculture. On the first day (Monday), the team was able to visit Gortys, a town dating back to the 5th millennium BC. Here, the remains of architectural structures from the Roman period were viewed, including the Odeum which was used for musical events and plays in the early days. Similarly, the Minoan Palace of Festos represented built in the 2nd millennium (Apostolakis & Jaffry, 2005) represented an old architectural masterpiece that forms part of the rich cultural heritage of the island.

Figure 3: The remains of the Odeum

Apart from that the research team were given a glimpse of the old Greek legal system in Gortys by viewing the Law Code of Gortys, consisting of a wall carved with old inscriptions of legislations from the same period as the Odeum.

Figure 2: Law Code of Gortys inscribed on a wall

In the next town of Chania, the group was able to see its ancient architectural designs with narrow streets and buildings, a beautiful scene of the harbour, and beautiful Venetian townhouses now converted into chic restaurants. All these form part of the rich attractions that bring many tourists to the island in the summer.

Figure 3: The town of Chania
3.2 Seasonality

This research excursion revealed that tourism in Crete is seasonal and largely depends on the seasons in Europe because this is where majority of the tourists come from. By observation we were able to see that the island had scant numbers of tourists. For example, the town of Malia which is popular among tourists from the UK seemed deserted but closer examination of entertainment spots revealed that they were closed for refurbishment in preparation for the coming summer high season of tourism. Such observations are largely attributed to the preference of most tourists for sunny destinations especially as an escape from winters in Europe and North America (Aquilo, Alegre, & Sard, 2005). The researchers also observed that most of the tourists on the island at that time of the year were older individuals, implying that they were able to visit now because of their less busy schedules at home and lesser family responsibilities at that time of the year.
3.3 Impact of Tourism in Local Culture

The questionnaire targeting the inhabitants of the Island mainly aimed to find out their views on tourist conduct and tourism in general, particularly its impact on the local culture. This is mainly because there have been concerns about the negative impact of tourism and tourist on the cultural fabric of Crete, which is deemed unsustainable (Andriotis, 2010). The table below summarizes the responses with the numbers representing the number of people making a particular choice…………