The Morphology Of A Coastal Resort Tourism Essay

4285 words (17 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Tourism Reference this

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When the beach holidays package and water activities are getting more popular, the bloom of coastal resorts appear and the attentions to the form of existence morphology of coastal resort are focused. By understanding the morphology of a coastal resort, it helps the local authority and planner to build a thorough of appreciation to the current resort morphology formation. Furthermore, it helps to ensure that all the development planning is founded on the present situation and what might be faced in the future.

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Other then identify the existing morphology, it is also crucial to recognize the process that has affected the morphology changes in a historical perspective. “Process” will be refer to a coastal resort is being transformed from a natural village to an urban town; in other words, go through the stages of Tourism Area Cycle in this paper. While the resort undergoes every single stages, its morphology changed, and the majority are affected by tourist-related business.

In the geographical context, “morphology” can be defined as the form and function of a place and their relationship and development over the time. It is essential to highlight the two fundamental characteristics of morphology: one is morphology cannot be merely identified as form, but “the science of form”, and another one is morphology changes in both time and space.

According to Hall, “costal” described as a coastal zone and offshore coastal waters. On the other hand, the definition of “resort” is rarely being clarified due to its nature of very different in both size and character. European perceived resort as a resort town and normally used it as a tourist destination zone or a district comprehensive by a great number of tourism businesses which produce main source of income to the local people. However, the view of North American to define resort is narrower. They defined resort as a place which commonly managed or owned by one authority, provide extensive tourism opportunities such as tourist recreation activities, food and beverages, accommodations and so on.

Although there are two different views in term of its size, a resort town is normally position in between a village and city. A resort town comprised of beaches, lakes, mountains, forests and other tropical locales and tourism industry often dominate the local economy and culture. Its most vital function is to supply all kinds of tourist facilities to meet their need. Therefore its whole form and function are noticeably shaped or affected by tourism activities.

Based on these definitions, the morphology of a coastal resort can be regarded as the forms (the shape, manifestation and arrangement of building surrounding or land use) and correlated functions (tourist activities) of a tourist destination region (resort town) along the coastline and their development in this case. In other word, it is a demonstration of resort evolution in coastal area.

The Background of Crete

Crete is one of the states of Greece. It is an isolated southernmost island of Greece which located in Mediterranean. It is the largest island in Greece and fifth largest island in Mediterranean. This island has the size of 8,335 km ² and 3/5 of these is lying 200m above the sea. It consists of four administrative prefectures, which are Chania, Heraklion, Lasithi and Rethymno. Heraklion is Crete’s main capital as well as the largest city.

Crete is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Greece, even in Europe. It is famous by its natural loveliness; diversify of landscape, 1040 km along the coastline, gentle weather and abundant cultural resources. Especially, the legends of gods and heroes, the art and history about the Minoan ruins make the place, such as Knossos and Phaistos well-known in the world. Today, Crete is being visited by nearly three million of mass tourists yearly. It earned nearly US$ 1.5 million of foreign exchange and approximately 40% of the local people are directly or indirectly involved in it. From 1986 to 1991, approximately 53% increased in the number of hotel beds.

The reason of Crete has been taken to illustrate in this paper is because it is an extensively tourism island and there is a noteworthy changes of morphology of Cretan resorts from the early tourist’s visitation to the final urbanization. Although there are many coastal resort town along the Cretan coastline, however, according to Pearce, the basic morphological and structural attributes are regularly replicate from resort to resort, even though the details are dissimilar. Imitation normally happened within the country can explain these similarities, but the form of coastal resorts frequently reflects their particular function. Hence, in this paper, Crete is treated as a whole to discuss the processes which affected the morphology in Cretan coastal resorts.

The Processes Affected the Morphology of Cretan Coastal Resort

According to Smith, Butler’s Tourism Area Cycle is the most effective model to propose that the coastal resorts become unappealing to the tourists with the passage of time, when it exceeded its carrying capacity to accommodate more incoming tourist, eventually unable to compete other newer resort.

Butler proposed that every tourist area progress through six stages: exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation and rejuvenation or decline. Smith indicated that the morphology of coastal resort undergoes an expected sequence of stages: pre-tourism, low-density, high density and urbanization. Morphological changes take place when the resort moves over the stages of life cycle. The processes will therefore being discussed based on Butler’s Tourism Area Cycle.

Andriotis suggested that the Cretan coastal resort morphology changes can be understood by the following characteristics: road network, lodgings and infrastructural facilities, beach width, residential areas, faming land, aesthetic and architecture. Each characteristic of Cretan coastal resort morphological evolution will be discussed based on the model of Morphological Transformation of a Typical Coastal in Crete, which presented according the stages of Butler’s Tourism Area Cycle. The model has clearly illustrates how the morphology changes in different stages. It also provides a better understanding of predictable morphological changes of its coastal areas as the resort undergoes urbanization through tourism-induced development.

A summary table for these seven characteristics of morphological change in Cretan coastal resort is provided in the end of this section.

Road Network

In the early 1950s, when the resort was in exploration stage, the road system was insufficiently developed and the early tourist explored to Crete through the capital city of Heraklion by warship or cruisers . The way to the coastal resorts and beaches were commonly inaccessible.

In 60s and 70s, the Cretan coastal resort started to involve some tourists. There is a tourists oriented beach resort in Stalida, most of the soil were land-locked and only some informal way able to access the streets or beaches. Although some faming lands were scarified to expand the road system, some property holder illegally invaded the street. Hence, the problem of bottlenecks of the traffic was still remaining.

In 1980, the coastal resort in Crete began position in development stage. A resort town called Drethia, there was a two kilometers road built from the rim of coastal resort to the town centre. The resort town expanded their road system rapidly from this stage. Refer to the Figure 2-Stage 3, the road system was now merged and T-shape was emerged. T-shape was constituted by street, main road, highway or railway station. Usually it was built without any preliminary preparation and planning, pushed by the tourist’s activities so that accessible to lodgings, coast and others tourism facilities.

From 90s onwards, the coastal resort has fully developed and no more space available. At this point of time, road system has come to maximum of its capacity.

Lodgings and Infrastructural Facilities

In the 60s, the Cretan coastal resort placed at the stage of involvement. Due to the effect of the movies “The King Must Die” and “Zorbo the Greek” which successfully made Crete well-known overseas, the small coastal villages within the reach of urban city of Crete began to attract pioneer excursionist. In 1962, about 23,000 tourists spent quick journey to Crete and paid a little money.

However, the villages were unable to accommodate the tourist as there were no any facilities provided. In Drethia, a retired mayor took initiative to “hosting” foreign tourists in his own summer villa. As the tourists increased, he extended the villa to build more room. This was the earliest tourist lodging recorded in Crete. In 1962, statistics showed that 2,315 hotel beds were found in Creten, however, only 950 were under the acceptable quality and 60% of these were located surround the city of Heraklion. The short stay and little involvement in tourism resulted in a low level of accommodations and infrastructural facilities. For instance, in 1965, Hellenic National Tourism Organization established the first Greek state-owned hotel, Xenia to attract tourist flow.

In 1971, the airport of Heraklion upgraded to international airport, and charter flights began to land. It bought Crete to a new era of commercialization. Thus, in 1975-1978, the junta encouraged the large scale tourism. Though, a new form of coastal resort arises. The coastal resort now positioned at development stage. The lodgings were now built far away from big urban city and facilities associated with tourism and leisure began constructed to support a whole year stay.

As a result of unplanned activities, the buildings were too close to each other until one was possible to pass through the window or balcony to next building. It was because Greece did not implement the land registration system at the time, thus anyone could put up any form of the building as they like. Especially in Stalida, the overall appearance of coastal area is so clutter and muddled.

The housing situation has become worsen as the prohibited building increase to more than 5,000 units in 1983 to accommodate more tourists and make instant profits. The private accommodations proposals were seldom being objected by local authorities, not only because of lack of regulations, and also social pressures and political practice .

The statistics showed that the number of hotels beds had encountered increase cross over the stages of life cycle, from 6,178 in 1970 increase to 50,544 in 1986, and increase again to 139,001 in 2004, in order to meet the demand of incoming tourists. When Cretan coastal resort arrived to stage of stagnation, the building was over-built, not enough space to further grow and it is the peak season of housing development .

Beach Width

When the coastal resort was still in the stage of involvement, the beach width was considered maximum as compared to the latest, which is nearly 50-60. In 70s, some property holder illegally established the private construction because of the lack of law provided. This action became evident when more and more property holder followed it. Thus, in decade, when Cretan coastal resort moved to consolidation stage from development stage, a high concentration of private building appeared on the instant shoreline resulted shrinking of beach width .

Moreover, the action of grabbing farming land to extend the road network was also reducing the distance to beach. When the coastal resort passed through the stages of life cycle, the buildings were getting closer and closer to the shoreline. In the end, at the stage of stagnation, the beach width became least.

Additionally, the width of beach was also being shortened by the appearance of the defensive structures. These structures were built right after the bloom of large scale of buildings constructed. It used to protect the beachfront and to avoid any unfortunate ruin of buildings or roads happened . In 2009, in the case of Pela Maria Hotel in Hersonissos, the beach width between the hotel and coastal line is only remained not greater than 15 .Thus, it changed the formation on beach and beautiful view of the area.

Residential Areas

When coastal resort passed from stage of involvement to development and consolidation, the need of seasonal immigrant workers was increase resulted by the rising number of tourism business. According to Association of Hellenic Tourist Enterprises , during summer time of 90s, there was about 10,000 incoming workforces in Hersonisos which have a population of 4,000 only. Besides, a lot of EU citizens were also looking for their second home in the coastal area of Crete. They were attracted by its good weather and relative inexpensive land. It had resulted a great demand of residential house in Cretan coastal resort.

Although based on the findings of Andriotis ,the data of the number of residential houses were not available, the number has observably continued increased to meet the excess demand over the stages of life cycle .

From 1965 to 1972, large part of the costal land in Drethia was bought by outsider from different region of Crete or Athens to develop the tourism businesses . As a consequences, large hotel chain, motel and restaurants are now erecting in the golden place, which near the beach or along the road that connect to the resort town center. It had significantly reduced the portion of residential land.

Thus, there was not more adequate space to accommodate them as the original coastal resort had been overbuilt when it reach the stage of stagnation. Since the resort area was not longer allowed to further expand, the residential area started to move to inland area . New buildings were continued to build in inland to accommodate both workforces and coastal residents. Yet, some of the coastal residents were forced to move out from coastal area as to empty the space for tourism business. They lost their original way of life and place at this peak time of housing bloom.

Faming Land

When Cretan coastal resort was still in the early stage of exploration, most of the lands were used as a purpose of agriculture. The residents of coastal village used to feed themselves by worked as farmers, fishermen or craft-related occupations. A morphology evolution which affected by tourist activities resulted an abandonment of traditional lifestyle in Crete.

In 60s and 70s, due to insufficient supply of road network, the informal way within the faming land was eventually being transformed to the formal way. The faming lands was also being transformed to tourist related activities such as golf courses and water parks, which they think were more lucrative .

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According to Andriotis , the faming land was also occupied to construct the accommodation to satisfy both local population and immigrant workers due to the growth of tourism business. Refer to the Figure 2-Stage 4-5, the portion of faming land was tremendously cut down from consolidation stage to stagnation stage.

The agricultural view in the faming site was seriously reduced and the farmers had to alter their profession into tourist-related job which considered more attractive and profitable . For instance, in Hersonissos, 95% of the labor occupied in agriculture sector and now alter to more than 50% of the labor occupied in tourism sector.


During the early of 1960s, the coastal villages in Crete were still in the early stage of involvement. It had famous in their luxuriant grounds, its scenic windmills and the overwhelming landscape. The oversea travelers were also fascinated by its Minoan ruins; the art, history and literature of Crete, including the tales of gods and heroes .

When the area processed to the stages of stagnation in life cycle, in 1990 of Drethia, those scenery were no longer available as the agricultural activities have been substituted by tourism-related activities. Moreover, the fishing villages such as Agios Nikolaos, Malia, Hersonissos and so on have been transformed to urban resort .It could be proved by the establishments of various forms of hotel, motels, restaurants, coffee shops, defensive structure and others that close to the shoreline. The place had gradually lost its authenticity and traditional aesthetics which resulted by the immediate profit of tourism business.


In 90s, while the coastal resort was in the stagnation stage, there was no more space to grow. Thus, the buildings in the area have lost the traditional architectural design and transfer to built the modern multi-story houses densely so that to accommodate more tourist. Due to the reason of simplicity and inexpensive used of reinforced concrete, Cretans are actually used to the way of construct with “right angles, rigid metal hedge and balcony barrier and puce concrete pillars”.Nevertheless, in the Port of Hersonissos, the styles of the buildings have been removed from traditional Greek approach of architecture.

In addition, the relationship between the architectural design and the culture it presented had been overlooked .The buildings were put up wherever the space was available and therefore there was not relationship among them. As a consequences, it became extremely piecemeal and no consistency in the orientation of the building. Yet, the formation of the buildings dispersion was overlap with each other which was totally different from the traditional way of architecture .

The Planning and Policy for Cretan’s Morphology

From the aforementioned process which affected the coastal resort morphology, it is observable that the Cretan tourism evolution started with unplanned activity without any concern for land use planning, environmental conservation and so on. Since 1960s, the Greek government has regard Crete as a top privilege area for systematic development of tourism. It can be proved by 25% of the national public and private investments were dumped to Crete to improve physical infrastructures in 1990s .

Greek Government attempted to control the unplanned and disorganized urbanization in Crete by implementing Development Laws. For instance, in 1983, Law 1337/ 1983 was passed which required master plans for all urban regions .The tourism development plans were drawn by a special land-use planning tool- Zones of Residential Control. Nevertheless, this plan failed due to incorporation of local population and therefore, the haphazard urbanization and tourism continue grow with their negative impacts.

Three years later, another law was introduced to converse the situation. In 1986, Law 797/1986 acknowledged the high concentration of accommodation as “Areas of Controlled Tourism Development” where only superior hotel can be built. Within this area, piece of them called “Saturated Tourist Area” where no more lodgings establishment is tolerated . It also aims to funding some upgrade of infrastructure and construction of particular tourism facilities such as marinas, spas, convention centers, golf course and so on. Nonetheless, it resulted more plans of golf courses construction and burden the island’s land.

In last decade, the tourism policy has paid attention on the following goals .

To maximize tourism contribution to economy;

To preserve the natural and cultural resources;

To upgrade and diversified tourist products;

To improve seasonal and geographical allocation of tourist’s activities.

It should be observable that the first and second goals are clashing by its nature. The economic growth is definitely improved on the top of exhaustion the environmental and cultural resources. Though, this clash is potentially alleviated by the fourth goals (enhanced distribution in both time and space). It is also suggested that some of the following strategies and policies can mitigate this conflict

To attract high class tourists by targeting the high spending segments of wealthy market;

To improve both infrastructure and superstructure;

To promote an substitute form of tourism;

To promote new destinations far away from traditional coastal resort;

To built the awareness of sustainable consumption patterns;

To coordinate all parts involved in tourism sector.

Due to the unplanned activities, the island of Crete is now only remains limited unspoiled beaches in Mediterranean .Many coastal areas, primarily in the immature southern part, have still kept their natural loveliness. Obviously, the fourth strategy will help to protect the traditional coastal resort from any unplanned and unbalance development. Therefore, it is important to have organized tourism planning and policies by both government and region authorities when developed an island area. The other coastal countries such as Portugal, Ireland and France have been publicized that the success of the promotion in their tourism industry, due to the implementation of comprehensible governmental strategies for tourism development and substantial incentives funded by centre government .


From the model, it shows the lack of physical planning, inadequate attention to environmental conservation, zoning and investigation. While the neglected resort planning has been addressed, it is suggest that employing Geographic Information System (GIS) to investigate the resort morphology. It consists of three applications: a morphological approach, a functional approach and an evolutionary approach. It helps the local authority and planner to analyze the morphological characteristics, for example, the accessibilities of transportation system to tourist attractions, the dispersion pattern of tourist activities in resort town and more.

By using this tool, morphological transformation is traced and potential impact factors are forecasted. It facilitates the development planning process of a coastal resort while the local authority is proposing what should be planned and constructed to improve the morphology in both short and long term. They can avoid decline in Butler’s model or any other negative impacts by improving their morphology.

In addition, it is recommend Greek Government to draw a spatial master plan for each Cretan coastal resort. The plan must match its listed strategies and priorities for future growth and morphological enhancement of the coastal resort. It should be accomplished on the above of protecting the environment and respecting the landscapes. Since there are no more establishments allowed, the tourism policy should emphasis on enhancement of existing facilities to improve quality tourist product and tourist’s spending. These facilities should be compatible with the objective of sustainable development so that avoiding further degradation of environmental resources.

For local community and private sector in Crete, it is recommended that they must understand the obligation of Greek Government to prohibit the development which brings the immediate economic benefits, to accomplish the objective of long term sustainability. It is their responsibility to aware about the negative effect of unbalanced development and overbuilt morphology.


Provided by historical data and evidence, it is apparent to show that both tourism demand and supply in the island of Crete have increased in a terrifying range from the early stage to the last stage of life cycle, thus resulting in a remarkable coastal resort morphological evolution through a combination of production of tourism and recreation and other co-exist creation such as lodgings, hotels and traffic. In other words, it was the impacts to the coastal resort to become an urban resort accelerated by promoted tourism, while its morphology changed affected by process passing through the stages in life cycle. As a consequence, green areas are rare, coastal resort are saturated in Crete, authenticity and tradition has lost and no longer as attractive as before during the exploration stages.

Based on Butler’s model, Crete is standing on the stagnation stage. It is facing either decline, if the tourism businesses continue to fade, or rejuvenation, by improve the overall coastal resort morphology. Pearceaddressed that the morphological changes should be more emphasis. Therefore, when the development planning is proposed, the related processes are better valued and the evolution of resort morphology in the future can be easily predicted. As a result, by indentifying the process that affected the morphology in different stages, it will help the government (for example, Ministry of Tourism Development) or local authority leads the coastal resort heading to the rejuvenation rather than decline in the post-stagnation.

On the other hand the island of Crete is now only remaining limited unspoiled beaches in Mediterranean. To conserve their natural environment and loveliness, those areas must have a careful planning on morphology from avoiding the problem of past unplanned coastal resorts development.

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