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CLIA and GSTC Pave the Way for Sustainable Cruise Tourism Development in Greece

the port of Corfu, Greece. Photo source: CLIA

The port of Corfu, Greece. Photo source: CLIA

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) have joined forces and are inviting port destinations in Greece to join the effort to establish a more sustainable tourism industry.

Maria Deligianni, CLIA Representative in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Maria Deligianni

“Greece is in the three most important cruise destination countries in Europe… It is our wish to continue to develop our cooperation and maximize the positive impact of cruising within Greece,” says Maria Deligianni, CLIA’s representative in the Eastern Mediterranean.

With the call for sustainability now louder than ever, following the unprecedented global shock caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, CLIA reminds that sustainable tourism is high on its agenda and underlines that it is open to dialogue with port destinations for collaboration on new strategies that focus on more sustainable solutions.

“We have seen during this crisis just how important tourism is to coastal communities and islands around the world… Τhe present reality offers the prospect to reset our collective thinking and focus on destination sustainability, especially in those European marquee destinations so popular with tourists,” Deligianni tells GTP Headlines.

First step: Destination assessment based on sustainable tourism criteria

Dr. Ioannis Pappas, GSTC Representative in the Mediterranean Region.

Dr. Ioannis Pappas

A first action towards this direction is for the local authorities of Greek destinations with ports to take the bold step to evaluate their current sustainability and commit to take action towards sustainable tourism practices.

And this is where the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) comes in.

Established in 2010 at the initiative of 32 global organisations dedicated to sustainable development, the GSTC conducts destination assessments and helps local authorities explore ways for balanced development of tourism in their localities.

“It is more up to the destinations to decide to follow this path, and of course the international organizations are here to support,” says Dr. Ioannis Pappas, GSTC’s representative in the Mediterranean Region.

In late 2019, the GSTC conducted a destination assessment for Dubrovnik, based on the criteria for sustainable tourism and destination management. CLIA was the sponsor to the project.

Local authorities in Greece rise to the occasion

In December 2020, it was announced that CLIA and GSTC joined forces with the local authorities on Corfu and Heraklion, Crete, to assess the sustainability status and map out a plan for sustainable tourism of the two Greek destinations.

CLIA’s Deligianni and GSTC’s Pappas give details on this collaboration in the following joint interview to GTP Headlines.

In this interview we also learn how CLIA is engaging with local communities in key port destinations around the world, while Dr. Ioannis Pappas gives us examples in Greece of implementation of the GSTC framework for sustainable tourism.

  • GTP: GSTC and CLIA have joined forces on a sustainable assessment program for Corfu and Heraklion to help the local authorities of both destinations draw up a plan for sustainable tourism development.
    Has the assessment process begun? Is this the first such cooperation between GSTC and CLIA or do we have a prior example? If so, what were the results?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): The sustainable assessment program for Corfu and Heraklion represents the second cooperation between CLIA and GSTC, following our successful collaboration in Dubrovnik, Croatia. These two assessments are the first to be conducted in Greece and the first time that the assessments are being co-funded with the municipalities and port authorities. CLIA is pleased to be extending its cooperation with GSTC as part of the cruise industry’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): This initiative of a collaboration between two global organizations and local authorities for the sake of sustainable tourism development is new, given that the local partners are committed into a collaboration financing scheme, creating local stakeholders’ engagement. The destination assessments for Corfu and Heraklion have started from the stage of desk preparation. For the case of Dubrovnik, the assessment outcomes supported in a very comprehensive way the development of a new destination strategy, focusing on more sustainable solutions.

GSTC shows the way

Heraklion, Crete.

  • GTP: How does the GSTC evaluate destination sustainability? What are the steps? When should we expect to learn of the GSTC’s assessment for the two Greek destinations?

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): A GSTC Destination Assessment is designed to introduce the destination management team to the core elements required on developing sustainable policies and practices by applying the GSTC criteria. GSTC will conduct a destination assessment of the Greek destinations according to the GSTC methodology and based on the GSTC Destination Standard (v2-12/2019). The process includes three phases: the first is desktop assessment, which includes an analysis of the current situation of the destination and workshops and training for key leaders and stakeholders to raise awareness of sustainable tourism concepts. The second phase is an on-site visit of the assessor, with multiple spot evaluation and stakeholders’ group meetings, including workshops and action planning with the local community. Finally, the third phase is the reporting one, with a presentation of the results to the destinations. Given the special conditions of this period, the final report should be delivered in May 2021 for both destinations.

CLIA: Sustainability is high on cruise agenda

  • GTP: CLIA has stated that the global cruise industry is committed to sustainable tourism efforts. What are the association’s sustainability priorities?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): Destination sustainability is high on the agenda of CLIA, notwithstanding the pandemic. We are in continuous dialogue with destinations and ports around the world to understand their challenges and how we can work together to identify solutions. Our priority is to strike a balance between cruise tourism activities and the lives of local inhabitants.
The European cruise industry wishes to play an active and constructive role helping Europe to achieve its ambitions to become a net-carbon neutral continent. In doing so, we will generate green growth which in turn will help to drive the economic recovery from the pandemic. People from all over the world will continue to want to travel, discovering different cultures and places across Europe. If we can find a way to decarbonize the journey through the discovery of clean alternative marine fuels, then we will effectively be future-proofing travel and tourism in Europe.

  • GTP: Apart from the GSTC assessments, how else is CLIA engaging with the local communities in key destinations around the world?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): In key destinations, such as in Santorini, we regularly conduct an analysis across all tourism sectors, not just cruising, identifying any “hiccups” and addressing immediate concerns. We also collaborate on long-term planning such as managing tourism flow, traffic practices, and shore excursion products to include local food and culture.
When possible, we organize ship tours for municipal authorities and local businesses to demonstrate how cruise ships operate and particularly the extent to which the industry is developing new environmental technologies.
Our #WeAreCruise campaign puts a local face on the cruise industry in key destinations with videos that show the positive economic impact of our industry and how so many livelihoods are linked to our industry.

The Greek island of Corfu.

  • GTP: Why did CLIA choose the destinations of Corfu and Heraklion for the GSTC assessment?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): Greece is in the three most important cruise destination countries in Europe and we enjoy a positive cooperation with the Greek government. It is our wish to continue to develop our cooperation and maximize the positive impact of cruising within Greece.
Corfu and Heraklion are top cruise ports and destinations. They were chosen based on a GSTC ranking and well-defined criteria including destination sustainability challenges vs tourism, yearly destination accessibility, certified facilities on sustainability in the destinations, destination content diversity on culture, gastronomy, archaeology, popularity and berthing facilities.
Most significantly, the expressed commitment by the leadership of these communities to improve their tourism activities and embrace a sustainable future for tourism led to our collaboration.

  • GTP: Does CLIA and GSTC have similar plans for other Greek destinations with ports of call? If yes, which ones?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): CLIA is proud to be co-financing these assessments with the two municipalities and port authorities. We are always open to collaboration with cruise destinations to pursue a common vision of sustainable tourism.

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): This initiative was a first step based on a collaboration of international organizations with Greek destinations, given that the destinations will commit on specific terms related with sustainable development and co-financing issues. This initiative is a model on destination development and GSTC has provided, based on a multiparameter analysis, a list of potential Greek destinations with ports that could follow this path towards sustainability. From that point, it is more up to the destinations to decide to follow this path, and of course the international organizations are here to support.

Greece is embracing sustainability

  • GTP: How do you see the Greek travel industry’s shift to adhere to sustainability standards? How do Greek tourism professionals perceive sustainability?
Participants of the European GSTC Conference in Athens in 2016. (Archive photo)

Participants of the European GSTC Conference in Athens in 2016. (Archive photo)

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): From 2016, when GSTC organized the European GSTC Conference in Athens, many things have changed. Sustainability is not just another issue under discussion –  by a hotelier or even a destination manager – to focus on or not. These days, sustainable tourism is much more than a trend, it is a reality and even in Greece someone can see a great advance. More hotels are becoming certified under a standard that is recognised by GSTC or even via the use of GSTC Standards by accredited certification bodies. We see an increase of GSTC members from Greece and a high level of demand for training courses for the certification of professionals. And this is an accelerating reality since platforms like are really pushing also in that direction. Likewise, global tour operators with services in land, air and sea, have sustainability certification of their partners, such as hotels and travel agents, as a central strategic pillar.

  • GTP: Are there any examples in Greece of implementation of the GSTC framework for sustainable tourism? Can you name a few?

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): Recently, someone can see a progressive implementation of GSTC framework in Greece. In Greece we have the 1st Hotel in the World that has been certified using the GSTC Standard for Hotels by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body. Also, a Greek hotel is the 1st European Hotel that has become an official member of GSTC, creating a commitment on sustainable tourism and GSTC vision. In addition, after the agreement for the two Greek destination assessments, an increase of interest for engaging and introducing the GSTC framework has been expressed from public bodies and destinations. We already have three destinations as members of GSTC in Greece, while we are under discussions for more in the next months, with cases in islands and on the mainland. And of course, I must mention here, the collaboration agreement that GSTC signed with the Greek Tourism Ministry in 2020 to support the Greek tourism strategy concerning sustainability.

Heraklion, Crete

Heraklion, Crete.

  • GTP: Achieving sustainability in tourism is one of the most important aims of Greece’s government, according to the Tourism Ministry. How does the GSTC see the ministry’s strategy towards sustainability? Is it on the right track?

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): According to the Greek Prime Minister’s statements when presenting the Greek Tourism Restart 2020 plan on Santorini, Greece should become the ‘Sustainable Tourism Leader’, which we must admit is an ambitious target. It is not an easy task and many things should change for that. GSTC, since 2015 has been offering its knowledge and expertise in South East Europe, including Greece, to support the transformation of national policies on tourism, via a more sustainable model. In Greece, GSTC signed a collaboration agreement in March 2020 to support the Greek Tourism Ministry in the implementation of the national 10-Year Tourism Strategy. This agreement signified the ministry’s intention to harmonize the Greek tourism industry with international standards for sustainable tourism development. Based on this agreement, GSTC offered support on many issues, starting with conducting webinars, during the first wave of Covid-19, on building the public and private sector’s capacity for Sustainable Tourism.

Sustainability in Covid-19 times

  • GTP: Do you agree that the Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity for countries to “rebuild” their tourism industries in a more sustainable manner?

Maria Deligianni (CLIA): We have seen during this crisis just how important tourism is to coastal communities and islands around the world. Sustainable development rests on three pillars – environmental, social, and economic – and the present reality offers the prospect to reset our collective thinking and focus on destination sustainability, especially in those European marquee destinations so popular with tourists.
Our partnership with GSTC is a clear indication that our plan is not to return to the old normality. Our gradual healthy return to service will be combined with a smart focus on destination sustainability, in cooperation with the ports and destinations that we visit.

Dr. Ioannis Pappas (GSTC): The Covid-19 crisis showed that the more sustainable a destination, the more adaptive and successful it was! Sustainability is a way of living, a quality on the tourism product, not another tourism proposal. And one of the most important outcomes of this crisis was that we must change our model from quantity to quality! Globally today, there are more than five consortia that are preparing this future model of tourism! GSTC framework is the main platform for the FUTURE OF TOURISM, where the first principle is to recognize a destination’s tourism by its nature.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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