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IUPUI professor leads social media research on perceptions about Greece


October 18, 2012

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A group of researchers led by an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolisprofessor has turned to social media to conduct an international survey about the image of Greece as a tourist destination in the wake of an economic and social crisis that has roiled the country.

The survey is part an effort to rebrand the country to counter a significant drop in tourism, said Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, an expert on various facets of tourism, including European tourism trends, in the Department of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management.

“Hundreds of thousands of Greek families depend on tourism for their livelihood, and it is of utmost importance for the country to remain competitive in the international tourism market,” Hji-Avgoustis said.

Researchers launched the online survey Oct. 12, using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to make it as accessible as possible to potential non-Greek respondents around the world, as well as Greeks living abroad. The survey is among the first to use social media to study a subject as broad as people’s perceptions of a country.

Other members of the research team are Athina Bampakou, with the Greece Ministry of Tourism; Dimitris Koutoulas, with the University of Patras in Greece; and Christopher Gullion, a graduate student at IUPUI.

More than 280 people had completed the survey in the first few days. The survey will end in mid-November.

Those taking the survey are asked what words, phrases and images spontaneously spring to mind when they think about Greece before and after the crisis broke out. Respondents are also asked about what they like and don’t like about present-day Greece in regard to the country’s image, culture, products and tourist attractions.

Another question is “Which words, phrases and images should Greece use to present the country as an attractive tourist destination?”

Greek officials know that pictures of protests and stories about a country that is seemingly teetering on the brink have had a negative impact on tourism, Hji-Avgoustis said. “They want the survey’s results to guide formulating the proper branding strategy for Greece under extremely difficult conditions.”