Representatives of TUI Group, the TUI Care Foundation and the South Aegean Region on Thursday announced “The Rhodes Co-Lab”, an initiative launched to transform the Greek island of Rhodes into the very first sustainable tourism destination in the world.
Officially announced during a press conference on the island, the ambitious initiative will see sustainability experts working together with the local tourism industry and international partners in order to find concrete sustainable solutions and develop and implement them on Rhodes over the next five years.
The main goal is to establish the South Aegean Region and Rhodes in particular as the global center for sustainable destination model development.
Speaking during the launch of the initiative, TUI Group CEO Fritz Joussen underlined that tourism brings many positive impacts, including investment, direct spending by travellers, economic prosperity in most destinations and also contributes to more social participation.
“The Co-Lab can serve as a laboratory for sustainable tourism of the future and strengthen and further develop these impacts,” Joussen said, adding that “The Rhodes Co-Lab” can become a role model and create blueprints for other destinations.
Part of TUI’s long-term sustainability agenda, “The Rhodes Co-Lab” supports the sustainability initiatives of the government of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the South Aegean Region.
“The Rhodes Co-Lab”
The island’s “co-lab” – which is the combination of the words “collaboration” and “laboratory” – is managed by a team of sustainability experts who are now working closely with the relevant departments of the Rhodes island administration, the South Aegean Region, TUI Group’s global sustainability team and TUI Care Foundation’s programme managers to exchange ideas.
“The Rhodes Co-Lab” will see a think tank set up on the island to bring together international experts and strengthen and further develop the sustainability transformation of the tourism sector.
The concept of “The Rhodes Co-Lab” is based on the following four core components:
The three partners, TUI Group, TUI Care Foundation and the South Aegean Region, have already identified the areas (picture below) in which they want to work with partners over the next five years.
Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation, said the entire tourism industry will benefit from the Co-Lab.
“Rhodes can become a blueprint for a successful sustainability transformation,” Ellerbeck said, adding that the TUI Care Foundation will be involved in particular with education and training initiatives.
When asked why Rhodes was selected to become TUI’s global center for sustainable destination model development, the company’s representatives explained that as a top global destination, the particular Greek island offers the best conditions to test innovations for more sustainability in tourism and to understand their interaction.
According to TUI, all the components that make up a holiday are in one place on Rhodes. Hotels, airports, cruises, transfers and mobility, excursions: the complexity of the challenges is visible on Rhodes.
‘A great alliance’
On his part, South Aegean Region Governor George Chatzimarkos referred to a “great alliance” with TUI Group.
According to the Greek governor, the partnership with TUI is a vote of confidence to Rhodes, to the islands of the Region of South Aegean but also to Greece.
Referring to “The Rhodes Co-Lab” initiative, he said that all stakeholders from the island’s municipalities, the workers’ unions and chambers of commerce are involved in the new project.
“It will be a wonderful five-year journey to transform this island to the very first sustainable destination in the world,” Governor Chatzimarkos said.
First projects of “The Rhodes Co-Lab”
The very first projects that have been planned and have already taken off concern waste management, water treatment and recycling.
Chatzimarkos said the the budget of the first projects exceeds the amount of 100 million euros.
“This is a budget already available through government and regional funding,” he said, adding that he expects future projects to be covered with money from the recovery fund.
“The recovery fund’s center of interest is green economy and we believe that all the projects that we have designed are absolutely compatible… We are optimistic that we will be granted the necessary funding from the recovery fund as well,” he said.
Greek government will support the South Aegean Region
On his part, Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias thanked TUI for choosing Rhodes and said the government will support the South Aegean Region’s involvement with “The Rhodes Co-Lab” initiative with regard to critical infrastructure projects, such as water resources management, waste management, traffic, etc.
“Our goal is to make Rhodes a model sustainable tourist destination that will be followed by the whole world, as the island’s sustainability will be the number one trend for travelers in the many years to come,” he said.