The “Restart Tourism” controversy

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Greece being what it is, we Greeks being who we are, the «Restart Tourism» national promotional campaign for the post-coronavirus era was expected to become a matter of contention. Inevitably.

The summer of 2020, however successful the policies implemented to contain the onslaught of the virus in Greece and however promising the establishment of tourism “corridors” to bring visitors to Greece, will quite probably a disappointment – at least if compared to the rich tourist experience of the last 3+years. So, the promotional campaign adopted consciously bets on creating a lasting expectation of the Greek experience in a future-looking way. The main-message – “Greek Summer is a state of mind” – is expected to tie the audience to whatever Greece has come to represent in their imaginary, that is, further to the “sun and sea” dimension. Since the current season will most probably be lost (if seen from a realist angle), the follow-up message of “this year, enjoy your Greek summer wherever you are” tries to stretch the imagination towards a better future.

The core of this concept is to create a mental bond and to seed future expectations. All of this, along with a 40-second video spot of the cleanest Evia waters, with a pack-shot of a lonely breach that expresses the subliminal message of safety and distancing (counterfactual as it is to the tourist experience of merry crowds).

So far, so good for intentions. But doubts, disputes, even verbal fencing were not slow to surface. Has the ground been cleared so that no legal contention arise from the use of the “… is a state of mind” slogan? Is the catchy slogan borrowed – or worse – from the Lancaster sunscreen products ad campaign?

The verbal fencing over the “Restart Tourism” campaign took a nastier turn once politics kicked in. The Opposition denounced the Government over entrusting the campaign to “Marketing Greece”, a non-profit close to the tourist trade without an open tendering procedure – and at cost of millions. The Government side replied that the campaign was produced pro bono and the rights to it ceded to the Ministry for Tourism. Things got more complicated once it became known that half of the Board of the Greek Tourism Organisation had tendered their resignations over the issue. Opposition MEFs even brought the matter to the attention of EU institutions.

All along, the opening of post-Covid 19 Greece to tourism goes on – at a hesitant pace. When all shots are called, it is the end result that will count.