Future-Proofing the Tourism Economy for Santorini and Rhodes


This blog outlines the challenges facing Santorini and Rhodes as tourism destinations and the steps that are being taken to underpin a sustainable, long-term future for the islands through effective destination management planning, under the auspices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It also provides a timescale for the actions proposed and explains how stakeholders can participate in shaping the islands’ future. Additionally, it addresses how destination management planning might be extended throughout Greece.

The Challenge

Tourism is an important driver of the Greek economy, representing 19% of the national economy and considerably more in Greece’s many islands. While the average length of stay is shortening, visitor numbers and revenue have continued to grow. However, as tourism increases worldwide, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure visitors’ contribution to the destinations that host them remains positive, in economic, social, and environmental terms. This is particularly true for destinations such as Santorini and Rhodes, whose economy and residents’ livelihoods are inextricably linked with visitors to the islands.

To this end, the EBRD with the support of the Greek Ministry of Tourism and the Chambers of Commerce of Dodecanese and Cyclades has called for the development of sustainable destination management plans for Santorini and Rhodes. Funded by the European Union, and following an open tender process, a consortium of globally experienced tourism consultants, comprising Greek company Toposophy and UK companies TEAM Tourism Consulting and Yellow Railroad Limited, has been appointed to undertake this work.

Their initial task will be to work with stakeholders in Santorini and Rhodes to develop destination management plans (DMPs), which will identify a way forward for the islands’ tourism and underpin their future prosperity, in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. They will also prepare a guide as a basis for extending the application of destination management planning to destinations throughout Greece.

Activities and Results:

In order to address these challenges successfully, the project’s focus will be on achieving the following results:

Santorini and Rhodes:

  • Development of sustainable destination management plans for Santorini and Rhodes:
    • to underpin sustainable, long-term tourism growth for the islands;
  • Ownership of these plans by stakeholders in Santorini and Rhodes:
    • through participative engagement of stakeholders throughout the process and concluding with a presentation of the final version to stakeholders on each island;
  • Local implementation bodies established:
    • to implement the DMPs on each island and monitor their success.

National Level:

  • Preparation of a guide to developing destination management plans for destinations elsewhere in Greece:
    • to help destinations throughout Greece to develop their own sustainable destination management plans;
  • Workshops with stakeholders in Athens and other destinations in Greece
    • to help destinations understand the principles and mechanics of destination management planning and inspire them to develop DMPs for their own areas.

Timescale – Major Milestones

(N.B. All dates beyond July are provisional, subject to confirmation as the project progresses)

  • Inception meetings – (May – completed):
    • to define project scope and approach, key targets, milestones, timing, project management issues, and resource implications.
  • Stakeholder consultative workshops – (June – completed):
    • to work with stakeholders to: identify stakeholder aspirations and concerns; refine the vision; explore current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and market priorities; review the island’s competitive positioning; identify product, experience, infrastructure and skills gaps and any negative impacts from tourism; identify performance measures.
  • Community fora – (June – September):
    • to engage communities in the islands, hear their aspirations, ideas for tourism in their islands, and their concerns, and inform them of the DMP development process.
  • Destinations’ reviews: – (June – completed):
    • to build a picture of each island’s major visitor products, experiences, and visitor-related infrastructure, plus any skills gaps and any negative impacts from tourism
  • Research (surveys) and draft plan development (July-August):
    • to obtain further data and insights on visitor behavior and perceptions, community perspectives, and tourism industry views.
  • DMP development workshops with stakeholders – (September):
    • to discuss and agree on the strategic priorities to be included in the plans with island stakeholders, based on data and insights garnered from research, and international best practice.
  • DMPs finalised for Santorini and Rhodes following a final review by local stakeholders in September (mid-Oct).
  • Guide to destination management planning for Greece finalised following a final review in September by national-level stakeholders (mid-Oct).
  • Workshops on DMP – Athens and other destinations (to be decided) (Oct):
    • to encourage other destinations in Greece to develop destination management plans for their areas and to provide them with the tools, in terms of guidance, on how to do so.

How You Can Get Involved

The DMPs for Santorini and Rhodes will be effective only if island stakeholders have helped design them through active participation in their development. We therefore value and encourage comments from all stakeholders, which is why this project is underpinned by a highly consultative process.

A dedicated website will be the main channel for interactive communication for all island stakeholders throughout this project. The main uses of this website and opportunities for stakeholders to get involved will be:

  • To keep stakeholders updated on the project’s progress;
  • To publish draft DMPs, for stakeholders to comment;
  • To seek feedback from stakeholders on specific issues.

It will therefore be important for those wishing to contribute to the development of the DMPs for Santorini and Rhodes to keep an eye on this website for opportunities to input their views. The timescale above provides an indicative timeline, which outlines the main stages at which stakeholders will have an opportunity to input their views (e.g. community fora, draft DMP stage). Any changes to these dates will be published on this website.