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[ Contents ]

Global tendencies, local responses

 

"Beyond the Meteors"
Panos Patras [Kalabaka-Pyli, Thessaly, Greece]

 

The Kalabaka-Pyli LEADER area in Thessaly (Greece)
is a mountainous region where low-productivity
farming is still predominant. However, rural
tourism provides good opportunities for
diversifying the local economy and has become
an important activity for the local action group.

 

Kalabaka-Pyli in fact benefits from the presence of the rocks and monasteries of the Meteors, which each year attract thousands of visitors from Greece and abroad. However, this influx of tourists benefits the local community relatively little: it is a passing tourism, which means that facilities and services have to be set up which are often difficult to make profitable in the long run. The high number of tourists is also a threat to the environment and the serenity of the site, which is listed under UNESCO's world heritage.

Near the Meteors, the Pindhos mountains are less well known, although they are also an exceptional natural and historical site. Their topography moreover enables all kinds of sports and leisure activities to be pursued. This led to an idea to turn these mountains into an alternative and quality tourist attraction, drawing a number of visitors to the Meteors for longer stays, with real positive economic consequences.

LEADER enabled this approach to materialise by helping to promote the assets of the Pindhos, professionalise supply, improve accommodation, services and facilities, and develop new products: hikes, mountain biking, horse riding, archery, mountaineering, etc.

A Tourist Centre has been set up to implement this strategy, which continuously ensures that the available tourist supply is adjusted, depending on the season, to demand from the market and customer trends. Ongoing communication is preferred to one-off advertising campaigns. This approach does bear fruit: one often sees, in both the international and national specialised press, articles introducing local products and attractions (a tourist relief map showing the Pindhos mountains was printed in a Greek magazine). For some time now, an electronic tourist information system ("Info-Kiosk"), installed in strategic locations, has also been tested.

Implemented since 1994, all of these actions have helped triple the number of tourists visiting the area and prolong the length of their stays. Visitors have also become more international and, in particular, the number of small local businesses providing services has increased, which is providing employment and additional revenue for the Pindhos communities.

source: LEADER Magazine n18 - Fall, 1998


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