University of Cincinnati
Navigation bar
Faculty Face Summer Challenge:
Untying the Knotty Problems of Tourism

Date: June 6, 2000
By: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Archive: Research News

A University of Cincinnati team will spend summer 2000 in Crete, laboring on long-term applied research projects to help the island evade the tightening environmental traps of tourism.

UC sent its first team of planning, sociology, political science, marketing, biology, architecture and geography faculty to Crete last summer. Their research served up a smorgasbord of ideas for sustainable development in the tourist hot spot of Hersonissos, Crete, dramatic in its setting of sea, mountains and ancient Minoan sites.

Their ideas, since realized, to ease tourism's environmental strain:

  • a network of pedestrian pathways

  • a bypass road for the burgeoning coastal communities to ease traffic congestion

  • a para-gliding landing facility

  • the transformation of abandoned schools in interior villages into cultural centers

  • the development and improvement of town squares and streets of interior villages
  • That first experiment will be expanded to a larger swath of Crete this summer, according to Hersonissos Mayor Zacharias Doxastakis, "While Greece is a small and poor country, we are very creative. It's no accident that Ulysses represents us. He's a jury rigger. We have to be creative to survive....We've made agreements with people in the surrounding villages to join with us in a cooperative. We knew this was a great opportunity for us after last summer. When UC made its final presentation last summer, it was standing room only. People were coming in through the windows. There's great interest in follow up....Even old folks in the villages stop and ask me, 'When are the Americanos coming?'"

    Mayor Doxastakis, left, Michael Romanos, right

    Tourism supports approximately 90 percent of the regional economy which once relied on agriculture. The June 12-July 24 summer assignment for this year's UC team includes expanding the tourist season beyond the traditional March-October period as well as developing strategies for upscaling the region's tourism.

    UC team leader Michael Romanos, professor of planning, explained, "Fewer tourists who spend more money would mean economic prosperity without environmental and cultural degradation. Ideas might include attracting the elderly to the balmy climate as there are advanced medical facilities in the region."

    Romanos added that European travel agents currently set the agenda for Crete's tourist marketing, filling a vacuum since the island never generated its own tourism goals. To remedy that, the UC team will map the region around Hersonissos in terms of geography, culture, history, architecture and environment. This information will be compiled on CD-ROM (and in hard copy) for the municipality to use in repositioning its marketing.

    The UC team will also set up a local area computer network to increase citizen awareness of issues and developments, and encourage their participation in decision making. Greece's formerly centralized government traditionally meant little citizen participation. That recently changed, and much greater power is now in the hands of municipalities like Hersonissos. (In fact, Hersonissos Mayor Doxastakis is now a member of national committees exploring further decentralization/greater local autonomy, and the UC-Hersonissos partnership is viewed as a model for other regions of Crete during the transition to decentralization.)

    Mayor Doxastakis explained that the UC team will help guide change that is now coming rapidly to both the more prosperous coastal communities as well as the less developed interior villages. For instance, with decentralization, the mayor was able to earmark $300,000 in public works this year for the small, interior village of Kera which has never previouslyreceived more than $20,000 annually in public funding. "For the first time, this village will have sewers, streets, sidewalks, a bus station and more. We want to make it acceptable for life, not a ghost town," he added. Also for the first time, the mayor has responsibility for land use zoning in his region, an area that has never had any zoning laws.

    The UC team will provide training and write manuals for guiding such growth and change in terms of land-use, water conservation and historic preservation. Working with them will be about 15 Greek planners, architects, engineers, land surveyors, economists and social scientists recently hired by Doxastakis.

    Concluded Doxastakis, "This [partnership] is the real 'super-power' influence of America. America doesn't need to give money or defense, just this kind of talent and knowledge person to person. People in our communities now realize that any development is not just a transportation issue, an environmental issue, a cultural issue, an economic issue. It's all tied together. Everything impacts everything else. More hotels don't just mean more money. They also mean more garbage, less water, more pollution."

    In addition to Romanos, others participating in the research project are:

  • Brenda Scheer, UC associate professor of planning

  • David Scheer, UC adjunct assistant professor of architecture

  • Kiril Stanilov, UC assistant professor of planning

  • Maria Kreppel, UC professor of English and communications

  • Citizen participation consultant Judith Bogart

  • Former UC administrator Mary Ellen Ashley, now with Essex Community College

  • Johanna Looye, associate professor of planning

  • Mahyer Arefi, UC assistant professor of planning

  • Romy Borooah, UC assistant professor and associate director of women's studies

  • Nicholas Chaparos, UC professor emeritus of design

  • Frank Wray, assistant professor of biology
  • The faculty will work in four teams with each team also including a UC and a Greek student.

    Funding for the summer research, about $125,000 in all, is coming from the city of Hersonissos, UC's Faculty Development Council, UC's Institute for Global Studies and Affairs, UC's School of Planning, and from UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

    It is expected that the UC teams will continue their research further in the future, returning to Crete for the next several summers.