Theano S. TERKENLI, University of the Aegean, URL: https://geography.aegean.gr/ppl/index_en.php?content=0&bio=terkenli, Greece
Vasiliki GEORGOULA, University of the Aegean, URL: https://geography.aegean.gr/ppl/index_en.php?content=0&bio=terkenli, Greece
Until July 2021, the repercussions of the pandemic had been grave for tourism-dependent countries, such as Greece, and particularly the Cycladic Islands. The rest of the 2021 tourism season, however, proved especially successful for Cycladic tourism, which poses the question of why and how a tourism destination may survive—and even profit from—but also redevelop after the pandemic. Towards this goal, the paper engages in a critical overview and analysis of the relationship between culture and tourism in the Cycladic islands of Andros, Syros and Santorini, in the context of the anticipated regeneration of both cultural and tourism development, in the post-pandemic era.
Τhe study was conducted between fall 2020 and spring 2021, in the context of the SPOT HORIZON2020 EU project focusing on cultural tourism. It was based on a) a series of in-situ in-depth interviews with key informants, an b) intensive questionnaire survey of local businesses (70 in total), and c) a focus group panel discussion with key local/ regional stakeholders e.g. senior executives in the island municipalities in the sectors of tourism and/or culture and local/ regional development.
The role of culture as a dominant tourism attraction and its potential for enhancing the travel experience in the post-pandemic era were broadly acknowledged by both the survey respondents and key stakeholders, who reportedly viewed it as their ‘hope in the horizon’ towards the reigniting and regeneration of smaller-scale, creative, dispersed, and more sustainable types of tourism, highly compatible with Cycladic destinations. However, great disparities also emerged between the latter’s current state and their regenerative potential, pointing to the necessity of participatory governance. The study participants specifically emphasized that the private tourism sector had been left by the State to its own devices, suffering a lack of a) cultural infrastructure, b) public funding, and c) destination marketing/ promotion.
Keywords: cultural tourism|tourism-dependent destinations|Cyclades|regenerative development|participant governance