Βack in the 1920s, an Italian documentary titled “L’Estate a Rodi” was created. It was the first time Rhodes had been presented to a European cinema audience.
In the film, the camera zooms in, on public buildings and Italian farming villages and their new settlers, on the Old Town where the Italians were carrying out extensive restoration, and on the Rhodians themselves, shown dancing in traditional dresses or going about their daily lives. It had been Italy’s dream to make Rhodes a resort for Italians.
During their occupation, the Italians built the airport of Maritsa ( which served as the island’s main airport for 40 years ); the hydrotherapy facilities at Kallithea, a racetrack, a golf course, and numerous hotels, the most lavish of which was the Grande Albergo delle Rose, advertised as “the hotel with 160 rooms and 80 bathrooms.” Its guests flew in by hydroplane, not only from Italy but from Egypt, Israel and elsewhere.
In 1948, Rhodes became Greek again…
The former Italian legacy included a special tariff and tax regime for the Dodecanese, which was kept in place even after Rhodes, along with the other Dodecanese islands, was formally united with Greece.
Up to 1981, when Greece joined the EEC, Rhodes visitors could buy tax-free items such as drinks, cigarettes and brand-name clothing items, which were not even imported into the rest of the country. This gave enormous impetus to domestic tourism. Many still remember the elegant umbrellas and, in particular, the suits, tailored on the island for much less than they would have cost in Athens.
In post-war Greece, tourism was seen as the quickest way to achieve economic growth, raise the morale of the Greeks, westernize society and introduce new lifestyle models. Rhodes was one of the few destinations where all the ingredients to achieving this were already in place. Bright sun, perfect climate, long beaches and fascinating antiquities, in fact all the main elements of Greece’s “identity,” feature here, along with stunningly exotic architecture dating to the time of the Knights and the periods of Ottoman and Italian rule.
The film industry, too, helped advertise the uniqueness of Rhodes.
In rapid succession a number of Greek and international movies were shot in Rhodes.
Anna Roditi ( 1948 ),
Surprise Package ( 1960 ) with Yul Brynner,
The Guns of Navarone ( 1961 ) with Gregory Peck & Antony Quinn,
Cruise to Rhodes ( 1960 ) and “Kiss the Girls” ( 1964 ), parts of the island became famous on a global scale.
Escape to Athena ( 1978 ) with Roger Moor, Telly Savalas, David Niven
The Greek National Tourism Organization ( EOT ), also made a significant contribution by restoring many buildings.
The same time numerous Greek Movies were shot as well.
Tour operators got in on the action in the 1960s, when the first charter flights began. At the time, most visitors were from Sweden. They came from Stockholm in a propeller-driven aircraft in 7-8 hours!
Shortly after, the Germans began to arrive, on vessels from Yugoslavia, booking through Touropa, the forerunner of today’s Tui.
Rhodes soon became a destination for international jet setters, such as Aristotle Onassis who visits the island with Winston Churchill. While David Gilmour bought a house in Lindos, another Pink Floyd member, Richard Wright, met and later married, Franka, the owner of the legendary Qupi Bar in Lindos.
Also, Boney M and ABBA, two of the biggest groups at the time, appeared at the Aquarius Club in Rhodes Town. Even the Palace of the Grand Master hosted European beauty contests!
1960’s …..Rhodes in its Prime time!