Winter tourism in Crete

The beach of Chryssi Akti in January

Someone recently started a petition to Easyjet and Ryanair for year-round flights to Crete. Whilst I think that chances are very slim that either of these companies will base their flight schedules decisions on an online petition I also believe that it can’t hurt to make our wishes known to them so I’d encourage anyone who flies (or would fly) to Crete in winter to add your name to it.

The petition also brings back the subject of winter tourism in Crete or, more to the point, why there isn’t any winter tourism in Crete.

I have seen people argue that the sea is too cold or that it rains too often. This is completely beside the point: yes, the climate of Crete (or anywhere in Europe for that matter) is not appropriate for winter beach tourism – the nearest place for this is the Canary Islands –  but Crete in winter still has much to offer.
A lot of people take winter holidays in southern Spain and the climate of Malaga (rainfall, average temperatures and days of rain per month)  is almost the same as Crete’s climate*.

So why do people go to South Spain for a winter holiday and not to Crete?
Very simple: South Spain is sold and marketed as a winter destination. There are regular charter flights to Malaga in winter and people know that it is a pleasant escape from the cold and grey of northern Europe.
Crete on the other hand can only be reached by scheduled flights via Athens (contrary to what many people think they can be quite cheap if you avoid the Christmas peak), most known seaside resorts shut down for the winter (because there is no demand for them to stay open) so that it only attracts a very small number of visitors who know Crete well, know that it is also very nice in winter and are willing to travel independently.

The average punter who wants a short break from the dreariness of a northern winter goes to Spain.

Starting any kind of viable winter tourism  in Crete is a “chicken-and-egg” problem:  there won’t be a demand for winter flights to Crete unless relatively cheap direct flights exist. But airlines have no interest in providing flights to a destination that is not popular. Therefore you need availability of flights (supply) and marketing (demand) to happen concurrently to make the whole thing viable. Once this is there you also need to brand Crete as a winter destination.  I believe that with careful orchestration it would be quite easy to jump start Crete as a winter tourism destination, but who will be the conductor?
We can immediately dismiss EOT (the Greek National Tourism Organisation) as the only thing they have managed well since their creation (apart from squandering tax-payers money) was to be consistently useless at promoting and branding Greece.  If anyone could do it I’d put my money on the Region of Crete (Περιφέρεια Kρήτης) who have made a valiant effort to promote their island with their own web site and interesting promotional short videos.  Someone seems to have good ideas and the will to work at promoting and branding Crete.

So, why not a second petition to the Region of Crete to help start year-round flights and some winter tourism to Crete ?.

* The climate of Crete shows huge variations between different parts of the island. Chania and the North-West of Crete is the wettest (coastal) part of the island and this is what I was comparing to Malaga.

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