By Nikos Krinis
More and more local producers and entrepreneurs based on Crete are joining a project launched earlier this year by the TUI Care Foundation that aims to establish a network that will link the most important economic factors of Greece’s largest island – tourism and agriculture. Launched by travel giant TUI Group, the TUI Care Foundation supports and initiates projects which drives the sustainable development of tourism.
The “TUI Cares for Crete – Sustainable Food” project, which was launched in March, sees the TUI Care Foundation networking wine producers, vineyards and olive-growers with the local tourism sector and thus contributing to developing the Greek island into a showpiece for sustainable food on holiday. The “TUI Cares for Crete – Sustainable Food” project is being implemented with the Futouris sustainability network in cooperation with blueContec sustainable tourism management experts and Crete-based social cooperative Local Food Experts.
“When we launched the project in March we talked about 25-26 farmers — oil producers and wine makers — and now the number has increased to over 100 local businesses that are participating in this project,” Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation, told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) on Monday during the project’s kick-off workshop in Heraklio, Crete.
The project is initially focusing on the two main products of Crete – wine and olive oil – and ecological cultivation and processing processes. In addition, seven traditional Cretan vineyards will be particularly promoted through the production of local wines.
Already, over 100 producers and businesses, including seven hotels — Atlantica, Aquila, Aldemar Resorts, Sbokos Hotel Group, TUI Magic Life, Creta Maris, Tui Sensatori — have joined the project.
Through the project the travel giant aims to strengthen its presence on Crete by focusing on the authentic experiences and the local products that can be offered to travellers.
According to Ellerbeck, the initiative mainly focuses on how to develop a sustainable destination that will be ideal for individual tourists interested in living authentic experiences, such as visiting local wineries or olive growers, but it is also aimed at the island’s hotels.
“The local producers will become more connected with the hoteliers. There is a huge advantage because guests are interested in the authentic food experience, guests are looking for this,” he told GTP.
TUI has been operating in Greece for over 50 years and is recording a double digit increase in bookings from the German market this year. Crete is one of the company’s most popular destinations for its markets. The tour operator this year has contracts with a record number of 600 hotels on the island.
Main goal: To offer authentic experiences
“We are very proud to launch the project from Crete, which is the ‘flagship’ of TUI in Greece, said Michael Mavropoulos, TUI Group’s regional director for the East Mediterranean. Mavropoulos leads the TUI Destinations Services team, which is responsible for TUI’s customer satisfaction in Greece.
“We are aiming for customers that are already visitors to Greece to spread the word to their families and friends and this way create a network of friends of Greece… We strongly support this initiative and are designing a new excursion experience for small groups of customers to show them exactly how this network works for them to have a genuine authentic experience (visit to a winery and wine tasting for example), one that will show them exactly how we connect hoteliers with the primary sector and production,” he said, adding that the innovative and interactive excursion program is expected to launch in the near future.
On her part, Angeliki Chondromatidou, the Director of the Greek Tourism Minister’s office and VP to the Greek National Tourism Organization, said that TUI is considered a strategic partner for Greece. “TUI gives us opportunities to evolve as a country… The aim is to become a 365 days destination for TUI and other tour operators,” she said during her speech at the workshop.
Chondromatidou added that the region of Crete gives “strength” to the country’s tourism and gastronomy, which can lead to the creation of a unique brand name for the island.
Region of Crete applauds project
While speaking to the press, the Governor of Crete Region, Stavros Arnaoutakis, said that linking tourism with Crete’s quality products can extend the tourism season on the island.
“When a company as large as TUI — that travels millions of tourists — passes the message for a better quality product through its partner hotels, we have the best advertising for our foreign and domestic markets because visitors will search for our products even when they return to their homeland,” he said.
Arnaoutakis underlined that through TUI’s project holidaymakers on Crete will have the opportunity to visit local wineries, olive oil mills and other facilities to see up close the production and standardization of the island’s products. He added that the region has discussed for the “TUI Care Foundation” to add other Cretan products to the project as the consumption of Cretan products by foreign visitors will strengthen the brand name “CRETE” within the international market.
Crete is the first destination in Greece that TUI has selected for the implementation of the project.
The “TUI Cares for Crete – Sustainable Food” project will run 2017-2019.