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Making Santorini: reflecting on the past, imagining the future

Maria Lichrou (Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Lisa O’Malley (Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Maurice Patterson (Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




Strategic analyses of Mediterranean destinations have well documented the impacts of mass tourism, including high levels of seasonality and landscape degradation as a result of the “anarchic” nature of tourism development in these destinations. The lack of a strategic framework is widely recognised in academic and popular discourse. What is often missing, however, is local voice and attention to the local particularities that have shaped the course of tourism development in these places. Focusing on narratives of people living and working in Santorini, Greece, this paper aims to examine tourism development as a particular cultural experience of development.


The authors conducted narrative interviews with 22 local residents and entrepreneurs. Participants belonged to different occupational sectors and age groups. These are supplemented with secondary data, consisting of books, guides, documentaries and online news articles on Santorini.


The analysis and interpretation by the authors identify remembered, experienced and imagined phases of tourism development, which we label as romancing tourism, disenchantment and reimagining tourism.

Research limitations/implications

Professionalisation has certainly allowed the improvement of quality standards, but in transforming hosts into service providers, a distance and objectivity is created that results in a loss of authenticity. Authenticity is not just about what the tourists seek but also about what a place is or can be, and the “sense of place” that residents have and use in their everyday lives.

Social implications

Local narratives offer insights into the particularities of tourism development and the varied, contested and dynamic meanings of places. Place narratives can therefore be a useful tool in developing a reflexive and participative place-making process.


The study serves the understanding of how tourism, subject to the global-local relations, is a particular experience of development that shapes a place’s identity. The case of Santorini shows how place-making involves changing, multilayered desires and contradictory visions of tourism and development. This makes socio-cultural and environmental challenges hard to resolve. It is thus challenging to change the course of development, as various actors at the local level and beyond have diverse interests and interpretations of what is desirable for the place.



Lichrou, M., O’Malley, L. and Patterson, M. (2017), "Making Santorini: reflecting on the past, imagining the future", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 106-120.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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