The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) presented Greece’s sustainable side to travel agents in the UK and Ireland during a webinar organized on Tuesday by the European Travel Agents & Tour Operators Association (ECTAA) and the GNTO’s office in the two markets.
Aiming to cover the needs of foreign holidaymakers looking for new and sustainable options during their vacations, the GNTO has partnered with ECTAA and will hold four webinars until May 12.
According to the Director of the GNTO office in the UK and Ireland Eleni Skarveli, Greece is looking after the environment while trying to preserve its resources.
“For years we’ve been trying to mobilize people on the islands to be sensitive about water consumption and today we have many pioneering activities in progress… There are so many initiatives running in various Greek destinations that people just don’t know about – small projects that only residents and visitors can see,” she said.
The Astypalea paradigm
During the webinar, Skarveli referred to the example of Astypalea, a small island in the Dodecanese that took its first step towards a “greener future” in 2021 with the delivery of eight electric vehicles by Volkswagen Group.
With some 1,300 inhabitants, Astypalea hopes to cover a significant part of its energy needs through renewable energy sources by 2026 and go fully green after replacing its current transport system with electric vehicles and renewable power generation.
Astypalea’s public services (the coastguard, police, municipality) are already using electric cars for their daily activities.
According to Astypalea Mayor Nikolaos Komineas the island also aims to promote sustainable transport by operating public transportation on demand through smart mobility programs and ride-sharing solutions as well as by using a hybrid energy system that will replace the existing diesel fuel.
“Our vision is to transform Astypalea’s infrastructure and economy according to the principles of sustainability and circularity as well as with the adoption of innovative technologies,” Komineas said during the webinar.
Furthermore, the municipality aims to preserve the traditional character and unique ecosystem of Astypalea and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
To support the island’s rural and tourism economy, Astypalea has also developed the following infrastructure:
– water production and management facilities
– wastewater treatment facilities
– solid waste treatment plants
– energy production management and distribution systems
– transport infrastructure (road networks, airport-port facilities, bus services).
Kos’ approach to cycling
The Dodecanese island of Kos has adopted a similar approach with Astypalea with regard to sustainable mobility. The island has developed an extensive network of cycling routes and is encouraging residents and visitors to use bicycles as a way to move around the island.
According to Spyros Papageorgiou, founder of MBike Events and Digital, Kos has become a prime destination for cyclists due to its long cycling tradition, prime infrastructure, flat terrain, and the will of local authorities to promote cycling as a tourism activity.
“Travelers are not coming to Kos because of cycling. They endorse cycling after coming to Kos because it is an easy activity. Why not take advantage of this opportunity and invite people that wish to enjoy cycling during their holidays?” he said.
Today, there are over 6,500 bicycles available for rent on the island – from affordable city bikes to more expensive speciliazed bikes.
According to Papageorgiou, Kos could also become a cycling hub for nearby islands.
ECTAA will hold three more webinars until May 12 for the markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland; Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg; the Nordic and Baltic countries.
More information is available on ECTAA’s website: https://www.ectaa.org/en/media/greece-ectaa-s-preferred-destination-2022.