Professional Round Table


A Systems Approach to Sustainable Tourism 
Chair: Dimitrios Varsos, Managing Director, MSI Conculting Group  

Greece is expected to host 32 million foreign travelers in 2018, over five times the number of travelers hosted in 2008. The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts) was EUR 35.0bn in 2017 (19.7% of GDP) and is expected to grow by 5.3% to EUR 36.9bn (20.2% of GDP) in 2018. The strain to maintain the delicate balance between “sustainable tourism” and “overtourism”, has not gone unnoticed. Overtourism is a result of focusing almost exclusively on growth, with little or no concern for the impacts. A report published by the World Travel and Tourism Council acknowledges five key consequences of overtourism: (1) alienated local residents, (2) degraded tourist experiences, (3) overloaded infrastructure, (4) damage to nature, and (5) threats to culture and heritage. A key contributor to achieving sustainable tourism is to adapt a holistic approach through a comprehensive national policy that mitigates coordination disconnects between the different government ministries, departments and agencies involved. These disconnects often result in conflicting policy decisions and a lack of coherence in terms of travel and tourism governance that frequently exacerbate rather than alleviate overtourism. A system is said to exist when a set of interconnected elements interact in such a manner that their input-output relationships constitute the operational utility within the overall purpose or defining function of the whole. Indeed, the national travel and tourism policy should promote a systemic cohesion that is made possible through open communication networks and multidirectional information sharing, thus encouraging a sense of collective acumen that propagates growth while alleviating the impacts of this growth over time. On a government level, the different actors need to be continually responsive to the various (regional, national, and international) social-cultural, legal and regulatory, economic, political, environmental, ethical, demographic, and technological factors that influence the country’s capacity to effectively implement its national travel and tourism policy, and to stimulate private sector investment that supports the increase in demand. Responsiveness to changing conditions is an essential characteristic of sustainable tourism. Responsiveness implies: (1) proactive changes in the nation’s short, medium, or long-term policy; (2) refinement of the sociotechnical infrastructure that supports the implementation of this policy; (3) modification of practices that are adapted as a means to achieve policy; or (4) any combination of the above.

Dimitrios Varsos

Dimitrios S. Varsos 
Department of Informatics, University of Piraeus,  
80, Karaoli & Dimitriou Street, GR-18534, Piraeus, Greece 
MSI Hellas Consulting Group, Irakleous 2, GR-11743, Athens, Greece

Dimitrios S. Varsos holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Informatics of the University of Piraeus. He received his Master’s Degree in Organization and Management, concentrating in Industrial Technical Management.  He is the co-founder and Managing Director of MSI Hellas Consulting Group. His work in research, consulting and education involves more than 120 corporations and governmental agencies in Europe, the U.S. and Russia. His research areas of interest include systems theory, complex adaptive systems, organizational theory, systemic methodologies, systems modeling and simulation. Mr. Varsos is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Society for Systemic Studies (HSSS) and a lecturer in the Post-Graduate Professional Program Certified Systemic Analyst Professional (CSAP).