Not the gods again! Greece launches new tourism ‘communications strategy’

Not the gods again! Greece launches new tourism ‘communications strategy’

The Manhattan cityscape by night, a middle-aged (fictitious) male writer sitting alone in his penthouse office and dreaming of Greece with a soundtrack that’s reminiscent of 1980s US soap operas Dynasty or Falcon Crest … if there’s a way to start a promotional video for Greek tourism, then this is surely not the way to do it.

The video, entitled “And everywhere you turn: Gods … Myths … Heroes”, is described as visualising the national tourism agency EOT’s “communications strategy” for 2015, the aim of which is to attract more visitors.

According to the tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, the “new communication strategy is based on the Greek gods and ancient heroes that we have all read about since our childhood and have all known since our school years”.

It’s a strategy built on the concept that contemporary activities such as harvesting, entertainment, sports, learning and arts are inspired and correspond to a Greek god, a Greek hero, a myth or a historical event.

Accordingly, the video makes plenty of references to the physical remains of the country’s classical past but deals little with its present, save for a couple of rustic scenes of villagers baking bread or making wine in the traditional way. There’s also a more than a nod to the country’s Christian heritage; our narrator tells us that “when a new God came on to the scene he was also welcomed and accommodated”. One wonders though whether this is to appeal to the relatively small religious tourism sector or to satisfy the tourism minister’s conservative New Democracy party.

The result is a hackneyed, corny and stodgy attempt. The tacky superimposed images of Greek gods on Greek archaeological sites or countryside is something you’d expect to see on the book-selling TV shows of New Democracy rightwing MP Adonis Georgiadis.

No, not a screenshot from an Adonis Georgiadis book-selling video

And what is utterly incomprehensible and inexcusable for a tourism video is the inclusion of a clip (here) from the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a games milked by the Nazi propaganda machine. [See update below]

The video contains a clip from the torch relay of the 1936 Berlin Olympics

To make it worse, the minister presented this video to the World Travel Market (WTM), described as the leading global event for the travel industry, which is taking place from November 3–6 in London.

Looking through all eleven minutes of it, one can only wonder what’s goes through the minds of the people responsible for promoting Greek tourism abroad. Greece is a country with incredible tourism potential and in recent years, arrivals are steadily climbing and receipts in the sector have reached a record high. The prospects for Greek tourism are looking good so surely the sector deserves a better effort than another appeal to the gods.

In London, Kefalogianni told journalists and industry representatives that Greek tourism is not just about “sun and sea” but it’s a “varied product with themed sections which are developing and aim to cover all the interests of a modern and selective visitor”. If that is the case, one wonders why a video was made whose target audience seems to be middle-aged male writers fascinated by Greek mythology since childhood who can come to Greece alone for a month but can afford to stay a year.

The video is a far cry from the vibrancy of the New York Times’ recent guide on what to do in 36 hours in Athens, which understandably went viral because it seemed to have been written with attracting real tourists in mind: people who want good food, to know about what museums and sites to visit and to get a taste of contemporary Greek life.

The video was directed by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas and was conceived by Nicholas Stamolidis, an archaeology professor at the University of Crete and director of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. The fictional writer in the film is played by Don Morgan Nielsen, who has worked as a translator. The music is by composer Dimitis Papadimitriou.

If this video is the best that Greece’s tourism agency EOT can come up with, then it only serves to confirm journalist Pavlos Zafiropoulos’ recent point that this is a country of riches led by impoverished minds.

Update: Greece’s tourism agency EOT removed the original version of the video on November 6 after the Guardian brought to its attention the inclusion of the clip from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In a new version of the video, which has been embedded above, some of the footage from Berlin has been replaced with a torch-lighting ceremony from Ancient Olympia. However, a few seconds of film from the Berlin Olympics footage remains in the edited version.