How a village took a local festival to the global stage

Beautiful, ancient and home to fewer than 100 people, the village of Rokka in Kissamos, Chania seems like an idyllic place to live. But with young people moving away to pursue their ambitions in the city, and fewer visitors over the years, the Greek village started to feel empty. “A village is more than just trees and houses,” explains Eftichis Papadakis, who has lived in Rokka since he was a child. “It’s about the people.”

To bring life back to their home, the community decided on a yearly summer festival as the perfect meeting point for people, culture and celebration. The centerpiece would be a dramatic symphony orchestra performance at the top of an ancient archeological site.

It was a creative idea with far-reaching tourism potential, but the villagers lacked the expertise to use the web to promote their festival. With a little help from Google and Grow Greek Tourism Online, they were able to get the skills and support needed to share the festival with the whole world.

Grow Greek Tourism Online (GGTO) runs under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Education, the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) and in partnership with the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE). The initiative is part of Grow with Google, which provides free training and tools to help people find jobs and grow their businesses. Since 2014, GGTO has trained more than 120,000 business owners and individuals in more than 100 Greek cities, including Rokka.

Through the program’s digital skills seminar, locals learned how to promote the festival online. They created an event page where people could see photos of the village and find out more information. They also learned how to promote their businesses in the run-up to the festival, using social media and analytics. Thanks to the hard work of Rokka’s inhabitants, people from all over the world soon started making their way to the village. And as visitors sat down to enjoy the concert, a YouTube livestream made sure that anyone, anywhere in the world could experience it too. Rokka had gone from a pin on the map to a prime tourist destination.

“Their passion and creativity are what make the people of both villages unique,” says Mety Panagiotopoulou, Creative Coordinator at Giortes Rokkas. “With the help of the Internet and technology, these villages in Crete are in contact with the whole world and vice versa”. 

Tourism provides jobs for one in five Greeks, makes up 20 percent of Greek GDP and shows plenty of promise for growth. An Oxford Economics study found that tourism-related online content could boost Greece’s GDP by 3.9 percent and create more than 176,000 new jobs.

As a result of new digital skills, 67 percent of Greek businesses have already seen increased revenue or increased visitors to their website. The positive feedback we’ve received has led to partnerships with Greek universities to help train the next generation of tourism and hospitality leaders.

As Grow Greek Tourism Online expands its reach, we look forward to being part of more inspiring stories like that of Rokka, where digital skills are helping businesses grow—and bringing a community back to life.

* This article was originally published here