Education, synergies, and coordination are the only options Greek tourism stakeholders have if they want to be ahead of their game and meet sustainability targets in the coming years, according to a panel discussion held at the Xenia 2021 hospitality expo over the weekend live for the first time after the outbreak of Covid-19.
Sustainability and ways hoteliers can start making their businesses friendlier to the environment and remain viable was addressed during a panel discussion titled “Sustainability as a Key Marketing Tool for Hotels” within the “Xenia Digi Hotel” series.
Sector experts Ioannis Pappas, director Mediterranean Region GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) and president of Green Evolution, Alexandros Angelopoulos, vice president of Aldemar Resorts, and Vicky Karantzavelou, general manager of NatTour – Bike Friendly Hotels exchanged views and knowhow on the issue on the first day of Xenia 2021.
Sustainability is Evolution
“Sustainability is here to stay,” Pappas said, stressing the importance of formulating a new tourism model that will not only integrate sustainable practices into hospitality but widescale and across the tourist experience.
Representing the hospitality industry, Angelopoulos said “practising” sustainble development was part of an “ever-evolving process that incorporates what already exists but re-adapts it” to meet the changing times and demands.
One step in the right direction is the relatively current launch of the Bike Friendly Hotels initiative by Karantzavelou. Some 130 hotels in Greece, 10 municipalities and 30 partners have already received certification and more are in line.
“Going bike friendly is the first step in respecting the environment and leaving a zero footprint,” said Karantzavelou, adding that from there it can link with other tourism products such as gastronomy, history, contribute to the creation of new tourism products through defined trails and create the “new traveler experience” based on synergies, which in turn contribute to local economies.
Studies reveal that all the more travelers are taking into consideration sustainability actions and practices of accommodation facilities and of destinations and this is demonstrated by new products launched by both Booking.com and Google. Pappas said the trend is clear: people are wanting to know about their carbon footprint – and innovators are already taking action.
Sustainability is not just a buzz word “it means knowing how you manage your energy needs, your water, and your waste, and training your employees to know as well,” he added.
Pappas went on to add that “we’ve committed to meeting important green targets, so for the next decades we will be talking about sustainability. The fact is however, that we must now go beyond talk to actions.”
Sustainable products offer visitors the chance to experience more, said Angelopoulos, adding that hotels can be at the frontline but this can only be achieved by working together – hoteliers, government, agencies – “to create a model that will put us all – from the financially weakest to the strongest – all on the same path”.
Moving From Words to Actions
Envisioning progress made in the next five years, Pappas said he hoped there would be a carefully formulated strategy setting out the terms and conditions for sustainable development in tourism with accessible tools for SMEs.
On her part, Karantzavelou stressed the need for education with a focus on road safety, while Angelopoulos added that “green” education should become part of the school curriculum.
Lastly, all panelists agreed it was crucial to see cooperation and coordination between government bodies, private and public stakeholders, and locals; and finally moving from words to actions.
Although lagging behind in the adoption of eco-friendly practices, Greece is taking the steps, albeit slow, in this direction. Indicatively, the launch of the ambitious “Astypalea: Smart, Sustainable Island” project to run for five years and aimed at establishing Astypalea as a model for climate-neutral mobility; the “GR-eco Islands” initiative to kickstart the energy-saving transition of the country’s islands starting from the Dodecanese and the isle of Chalki; as well as dozens of plastic-free campaigns running on the islands of Santorini, Alonissos (Alonissos without Plastic Bags), Donoussa, Lipsi, Sifnos, and Sikinos, and Paros with its Clean Blue Paros initiative.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is a Media Partner of the Xenia 2021 hospitality exhibition.