Gastronomy Tourism in Greece

Heidi Lazani, Region of South Aegean Governor’s Office Director











All stakeholders in Greece are highly interested in the development of gastronomic tourism in every single aspect (eg use of local products, development of special experiences). This debate has begun in a broader fertile environment, as Greek tourism is maturing. Its enrichment through inter -sectoral linkages is a priority . The need and the benefits of linking tourism to gastronomy have been perceived. Indeed, in the recent years has been research documenting that Greek gastronomy is a competitive advantage. Many parallel initiatives have been taken by central government officials, institutions and business groups (following a table with some of the most important actions and initiatives). Overall, there is a significant and thriving gastronomic scene in the country’s leading destinations, but there are issues to be resolved [e.g. range and composition of experiences against their competitors, enhancement of infrastructure quality in order to fully highlight the potential of the destination (eg Varvakios Central market vs Madrid market)]. Furthermore, the promotion of the Greek gastronomy has to be supported to increase its popularity within the traveling public. Finally, there is a lack of partnerships that hampers innovative actions and the scale up of good practices.

  •  Ministry of Economy and Development: Implementation of development policy ; Promotion of gastronomy by the supervised organization “Enterprise Greece”.
  • Ministry of agricultural development and food: Implementation of agricultural policy; Operational specifications of multifunctional farms; Certification of agricultural products and multifunctional farms by the supervised “Hellenic Agricultural Organization – Demetra”.
  • Ministry of Tourism: Implementation of tourism policy; Issuance of a national quality label for the Greek Cuisine & and one for the wineries; Operational specifications of agro-tourism businesses; Quality standards designed to protect public health by the EFET (Hellenic Food Authority); Promotion of gastronomy by the National Greek Tourism Organization (EOT).
  • Hellenic Chamber of Hotels: Coordination of the “Greek Breakfast” initiative in collaboration with local hoteliers’ associations, local gastronomy networks, producers, local authorities, and agri-food control & promotion operators .
  • Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE): Relevant studies in 2009 and 2018-2019 (the 2nd one by INSETE) 2018-2019; SETE Workshops (eg): Tourism, gastronomy and local identity: a Greek look into a global trend / Wine meets tourism; Promotion of greek gastromy by Marketing Greece (eg Blogtrotters in 2018 was dedicated to Greek gastronomy); Implementation of the project “Gastronomic Destinations” by INSETE and Marketing Greece in collaboration with Greek Gastronomy Guide 2018; Implementation of actions according to the strategic plan of INSETE: Training programs for tourism professionals since 2015; Organizing and delivering about 60 seminars in 12 cities in 2019, with approximately 30 lecturers and 1,500 participants, as well as 29 different themes – 17 of which are directly related to culinary tourism services (59%).
  • In the period 2017-2018 the whole program was highly rated by the participants (eg ): lecturer’s overall score 9.7. Overall program rating 9.3, Degree of expectations met 9,2 (*score range 0 -10 ); Design and implement of about 8 “On Tour Tourism Schools” (a non -profit initiative that aims at reinforcing the tourism identity of destinations through themed lectures) in 8 different destinations in collaboration with the Kalamata Tourism School and local organizers. Facts & Figures: 8 destinations, with 1400 + participants, specialized workshops (eg wine, extra virgin olive oil, mixology); Strategic collaboration with the Greek Wine Federation . In every gastronomy workshop the section Food and Wine Pairing has been integrated, with the aim of: Promoting Greek wines and introducing professionals to the wide variety of choices, possibilities and peculiarities ; Interconnecting professionals with producers and building a network of contacts that will contribute to the expansion of networking.
  • Regions: South Aegean: European Gastronomy Region 2019 (goals): Upgrading of the South Aegean region to a gastronomic tourist destination; Increasing standardized and certified local products; Use of local products throughout the tourism chain; Better cooperation and coordination of the whole food chain; Regional Operational Programs; Smart Specialization Strategies; Agri -Food Partnerships (eg the “Cretan Cuisine” label has specifications for various product categories, restaurants and grocery stores, and its proper use is controlled by extraordinary inspections).
  • National Committee of Wine Tourism: Formulating the national quality label for wineries which was sent to all the local tourism authorities; Monitoring the process of issuing the national quality labels; Events (eg Open Doors, European Wine Tourism Day).
  • SEAGE- Hellenic Agrotourism Federation: National Conference on Rural – Agricultural Tourism.
  • Chambers: Chamber of Cyclades & Chamber of Dodecanese: Certification System – Aegean Cuisine Quality Label; Corfu Chamber: Certification System – Corfu Cuisine Quality Label; Heraklion Chamber of Commerce: Pancretan Forum for B2B Meetings between Producers and Tourism Businesses.
  • Private sector initiatives: We do Local: Hotel and Producer Certification System, which promotes the distribution of local dishes / products and promotes local culture and production; Captain Vasilis and Carmen Constantakopoulos Foundation: Support and Promotion of actions that aim to train Messinia stakeholders on Sustainable Rural Development; Tinos Food Paths: Interactive events and activities every May involving local producers and businesses; Open Farm: A community of farms and processing units that provide training and guiding services; Gastronomy-Kos: An annual celebration of gastronomy and local products in Kos where collaboration between local producers and tourists is encouraged.
  • Banks: Dine Athens Restaurant Week by Alpha Bank: As part of the 3rd “Dine Athens Restaurant Week” from February 1st to February 13th, 2018, more than 20,000 Athenians responded to the call and enjoyed high-end gastronomic creations at 100 selected restaurants at special rates.

The “Tinos Food Paths” initiative

We can refer to Tinos and the “Tinos Food Paths” initiative as a best practice due to the following reasons:

  •  Within just 5 years Tinos is not only perceived by tourists as a religious but also as a gastronomic destination.
  • It is an initiative of a strong local character which was launched to strengthen the local gastronomic identity and at the same time the local economy
  • The key success factor is shared benefit-driven partnerships

Tinos Food Paths is an organized movement of the Food and Beverages Companies Association of Tinos to deploy local food “wealth” and promote it a better way. As a punch, the island’s young-mainly-catering businessmen are joining with others of the wider gastronomy sector (producers, winemakers, confectioners, brewers) in order to make Tinos a remarkable gastronomic destination.

The philosophy of this attempt is not only to promote the local gastronomy, but above all, to boost the cooperation between local citizens and entrepreneurs. It also aims to local residents and professionals to embed local gastronomy, enhancing confidence in local gastronomic treasures.

The main activities of Tinos Food Paths are the events that take place on the island in the second week of May. These events are very innovative and authentic and involve all the islanders.

Indicatively at Tinos Food Paths 2019 the following events took place:

  • “Cooking” at the Old Fish Market in Tinos Town by renowned chefs from all over Greece.
  • Speeches on nutrition and gastronomy by prominent representatives of taste and nutrition.
  • “Magic Circles” in the village of Kalloni, Tinos, with interactive activities, artistic installations, hiking trails, malls, gastronomic delights and many stories.
  • The 3rd Aegean Cocktail & Spirits Workshop by Difford’s Guide featuring top bartenders and professionals from Greece and abroad to create cocktails made from Greek spirits.

Significant steps were taken during the years by the initiative of Tinos Food Paths: traditional crops revived, synergies blossomed, the island flourished, locals took care of it and protected it, while many foreigners charmed by the place, invested in it. “We need synergies between all sectors involved in the tourism industry with primary sector producers in order to offer the island visitors a complete culinary experience“, they say. Tinos matures smoothly as a culinary destination and seems to know how to manage it with courtesy, refinement and grace for the sake of preserving the authenticity of the place.