Named as the best place in Europe to visit in 2016, the Peloponnese is home to ancient history: sites like the Temple of Apollo, the stone-built town of Dimitsana, and the mystery and wonder of the Diros Caves. Travellers from afar can visit the best preserved of all Greek theatres at Epidaurus, or the infamous Homeric Palaces of Agamemnon. Visitors searching for something more nature oriented, will delight in the mountain ranges, and the 75 kilometres of hiking on the Menalon Trail of Arcadia. And while the sites can take visitors back thousands of years, the culture of the region provides a taste of what Greece was like back then, and still is today.
The Peloponnese features an abundance of vineyards, and wineries – producing the largest number of registered types of wines, in comparison to any other wine-producing area in the country – making it an essential stop on any enotourism route. The award winning wines are accompanied by a plethora of other agricultural products; such as Peloponnesian feta cheese, which still comes from flocks of indigenous species, Tsakonian aubergines, and Mountain Mainalon honey. With so many Protected Designation of Origin products, travellers can really get a feel for the local traditional foods, while investors have an opportunity to support sustainable, ecologically produced agriculture.
The security of quality products, and highlighting the opportunities in the Peloponnese, has been one of the focused efforts of the regional government over the past several years. “A basic element of our policy in the Peloponnese is the establishment of a sense of security for our foreign investors, while, at the same time, we support the view that this sense of security also needs a policy that will promote Peloponnesian products. With this, we mean the development of the opportunities our policy provides to foreign investors, to make them feel secure, and resolve to invest in the Peloponnese.” explains Governor Tatoulis.
As governor for two terms, and former Minister of Culture, Tatoulis has pushed for the connectivity of the region as a whole; from infrastructure to tourism, to promoting agriculture through business. He has worked to ensure improvements in the waste management programme, along with the modernisation of roads. He has also been a strong proponent of extroversion, advocating for involvement on an international community level.
When he’s talking about Invest in Peloponnese, a pilot program undertaken in partnership with Enterprise Greece – Greece’s national investment promotion authority – the governor elaborates that, “The main aim of our choice is to transform the Peloponnese into an island of sustainability, according to all the required rules and regulations, in order to have the region certified and identified as one that mainly respects the environment, its culture, its tradition and, above all, it puts trust on its own human capital, the most significant criterion of our effort.”
The EU’s cohesion policy has provided funding that has fuelled significant regional development and progress; boosting economic growth, in not only agriculture, but infrastructure and the finance sector as well. The Kalamata International Airport serves the region, along with two ports, and the 205 kilometres of the Moreas Motorway connect Corinth and Kalamata through Tripoli – spurring recent economic and population development. But perhaps the most promising change, is the support behind the decentralisation of banking – giving the region the autonomy needed to directly fund small and medium enterprises.
Several studies of financial institutions have been carried out, resulting in the push for a regional banking system similar to the German model, Sparkassen. According to Governor Tatoulis, “we are going to establish a similar regional bank, starting from the region of the Peloponnese, and I’m sure that other regions will follow suit in order to fund and provide guarantee for our small and medium size businesses”, adding that “Our businesses are mainly small family ones, and we consider them the apple of our eye. We believe that they comprise the most important competitive factor, and will act as an advantage in order to help us move forward.”
In the next several years, Greece is expected to begin drilling for natural gas. Having a regional banking system in place by the proposed 2023 date, could position the region with an advantage – if the proposed generation of 350 billion euros per year comes to fruition. However, enabling the green revolution is also seen as a priority, with investment opportunities in renewable energy sources being supported by legislation and incentives.
In 2018, the World Tourism Forum Lucerne symposium, was hosted at Costa Naravino – a luxury hotspot in the Southwest Peloponnese – creating an opportunity for the region to align with trends, and make acquaintances that will shape the tourism sector in the coming years. The region is already investing heavily in the industry, including research and development, to better provide what tourists are looking for. Governor Tatoulis mentions that, in “studying the modern tourist profiles, we have realised that what interests them, at the experience level, is something that will offer a different quality to this short-term experience they want to have, either on their own, with their families, or seeking a totally different experience”,
The workforce is also being trained with specialised programmes, sponsored by the region, to encourage a hospitable and welcoming exchange with visitors. This is in the hope of converting them to lifelong tourists that will continue to enjoy all that the Peloponnese has to offer. By not focusing on mass tourism, but instead concentrating on the idea of sharing a rich cultural tradition, Mediterranean cuisine, and maintaining sustainable development – which translates into a more viable reality.
As Governor Tatoulis sums up, “the last thing that makes us particularly optimistic, is that we have a consummate point of view as to how our region should develop. But above all, we depend on our own potential as well as the potential and the stamina of the citizens of Peloponnese”.
Tags: Greece, Peloponnese, tourism, European Union, EU, regionalisation, cohesion funds, cohesion policy, investment opportunities, investing in Greece, agriculture, infrastructure, decentralisation, regional bank, Sparkassen, visit Greece, Greek tourism