By Jonas Rehmet
(part 1 is here)
When I was a little boy (a long time ago) my parents used to take me to Naxos, an island of unrivaled beauty – at least that is how I always used to remember it. Up to some years ago this picture never changed until Greece increasingly moved into the focus of mainstream media. I could not even pinpoint when it started, but slowly my dreamlike reminiscences of Greece were tainted by reports of riots, political instability and financial mismanagement. I wondered how it could be that Greece’s image in the media suddenly changed from a country of historic ruins to a historic country in ruins. In order to find out more I conducted a preliminary research on the image of Greek tourism in selected German media and opinion-makers.
The study was designed to find out about how tourism in Greece was presented in the German media in the time span June 2012 until August 2013. Without question this research period is not sufficient to draw consistent conclusions, but it allows to get a first glimpse at dominant themes and possible phases of the discourse.
Six major newspapers and one online resource, based on sold circulations, were selected to serve as a sample for the research. Among those were Focus, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Handelsblatt and Spiegel Online as the only online resource. Articles were selected on the criteria:
- Published in the time span June 2012 – August 2013
- Greece and tourism were applicable search words
MAXQDA, which I can recommend highly to anybody, served as a tool for qualitative coding and a subsequent data analysis.
After having coded and analysis, the articles were divided into categories depending on whether they are predominantly positive or predominantly negative. The purpose of this measure was to visualize the distribution of coverage. It is evident that in all but one quarter negative media coverage outweighed positive media coverage. Although this assumption is not validated, one would think that media coverage related to tourism would be rather positive, hence the number of negative articles is even more impressive. For further research it would be very interesting to investigate, whether media coverage on tourism in general is rather positive and whether competing destinations received better media coverage in the same time period.
Coming back to the actual research the following data was accumulated and drawn from the sample.
The most dominant themes related to “Greece positive” were:
- Especially the “pristine landscape and picturesque nature” (e.g. beaches, islands, etc.) have been a reoccurring themes
- Often mentioned was the typical Greek “architecture” of white and blue cubic houses, as well as the historic attractions
- The Greek “hospitality” “filoxenia”, especially in relation to the still existing Greek-German friendship
- Surprisingly Greek “traditions” and ancient times have not been dominant themes
- In mid-2013, positive news of “economic improvement” due to consistent reforms appeared
The most dominant themes related to “Greece negative” were:
- German media strongly reported of “riots and protests” in 2012
- Consequently authors reported of “feelings of unsafety” especially due to anti-German resentments
- Another topic of concern was “political instability” during the election and again in mid-2013
- The abstract code “crisis” has been a reoccurring theme, however German media rather focused on the effects of the crisis
- Recent media coverage is heavily focused on high “unemployment rates” in Greece
The most dominant themes related to “Greeks attributes“ were:
- The Greek population has been described as “angry” due to the restrictions imposed by TROIKA
- Additionally “financial mismanagement” and “tax evasiveness” were often connected to the Greek habitus
- A permanent theme was the strong “friendliness” and “serenity” of Greeks even in times of the crisis
- In 2013, it has been increasingly pointed out that the Greek population‘s anger has shifted to “wistfulness” and the awareness that reforms are needed
The most dominant themes related to “Tourism Industry” in Greece were:
- Decrease in German tourist arrivals
- Increase in visitors from new markets
- Eastern European Countries
- The importance of the tourism sector to the Greek economy
- High “price level” compared to competitors
- During the crisis, fear of “supply deficits” for tourists
In conclusion one might say that there has apparently been a rather negative coverage of the themes “Greece” and “tourism” in German media during the research period, however, evidently the time span is too short to serve as a base for a qualitative assessment. Although the overall picture of Greece is predominantly negative, one should notice that there is a distinction between media coverage about the Greek population and the Greek state. The latter is in most case the source of negative media coverage, while the Greek population seems to preserve a positive image apart from the understandable anger. Additionally, the old strengths of Greece (landscape/nature and hospitality) remain untainted. I guess after all the little boy’s memory in me is still true. The sun, the beauty of the landscape and the heartwarming hospitality are still present and not in crisis. Yet, indisputably the image of Greece in the German market has a couple cracks and dents. It is now up to the Greek tourism authorities to prevent further decay and a possible image crisis.