Τι λέει ένας "ξένος" για τον τουρισμό, την Ελλάδα και την Αρχαία Ολυμπία
EMMANUEL DWEH TOGBA
With many islands, Greece is arguably one of the best place for tourists to spend their holidays. In Greece, one of the favorite destinations for tourists is usually the small town of Ancient Olympia, a sanctuary of Ancient Greece in Elis on the Peloponnese Peninsula. It is a town known for hosting the Olympic Games in classical times- a period of 200 years in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through the 4th centuries BC. While in Olympia, most tourists stay for couple of days exploring ancient remains of the Greek gods at the archeological site and the Ancient Olympic Stadium. During their short stay, local enterprises, mainly family owned, seize the opportunity to sell their products and services. A huge number of these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) operating in Ancient Olympia sell mainly locally made products including souvenir and food items, while others such as hotels provide services to tourists. Of all the products being sold by local businesses, the most popular product here is oil made from olive; one of the many fruits the region has in abundance.
With the high competition amongst local businesses, it is difficult for a particular shop or business to make huge sales since it has to share customers with rivals. Additionally, since most of the businesses are managed by one of the family members who is usually chosen randomly by the rest of the family members, many of the managers lack basic entrepreneurial skills and abilities that are needed for proper management of small and medium-sized businesses. Furthermore, innovation and the use of modern technologies to enhance marketing strategy and customer services are also lacking amongst these small businesses thus creating a situation of dormancy within the business environment.
Due to the summer holidays which brings in a lot of tourists, businesses in Olympia usually boom during this period which starts from April and lasts until October each year. According to The Greek Tourism Confederation, Sete, over 9 million tourists arrived in Greece through its twelve main entry ports between January and June of 2016, a number which is more than half of the total number of inbound tourists in the previous year. Unfortunately for Olympia, the number of tourists visiting the ancient town this year has reduced for the first time in many years as being observed by managers of local businesses in Olympia. This means that businesses are certainly experiencing relatively low sale since more than 80% of their customer base is tourist.
“This year many tourists are not coming to Olympia as compare to previous years and the few that are here are not buying, some of them enter the shop, look at the products and leave without buying anything”, says a manager at a jewelery shop when asked about her sales this summer.
Many local residents including managers of businesses believe that the reduction in the number of tourists is part of the aftermath of the country’s debt crisis which has also affected economies of other European Union Member states. The debt crisis has also resulted to the Greek government levying high taxes-corporate tax and Value Added Taxes (VAT); other costs of doing business including high cost of insurance are as well affecting businesses’ profits, resulting to the inability of most businesses to employ local residents who are currently seeking job.
Most small businesses when faced with loss, have no alternative but to borrow money from relatives or friends. This is due to the Capital Control measures which was first introduced during the start of the summer of 2015 as a means of dealing with Capital Flight. The Capital Control Measures among other things has made it difficult for small businesses to take loan from the bank. With all of these situations being faced by small business managers in Olympia, yet many of them are still expressing hope that the business environment will get better soon. At the same time, they are stressing the need for ease in the process of taking business loan from banks and the presence of an institution to provide training for local entrepreneurs.
Emmanuel Dweh Togba
Masters student in Economics at Anadolu University in Turkey, in collaboration with "Dione" Local Development Centre in Ancient Olympia, under the Erasmus Intern programme.
This article is the result of interviews done with business managers and owners in Ancient Olympia, Greece