George Nikitiadis: “Our Primary Goal is Alternative Tourism”

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Interview of Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, George Nikitiadis. 

Tourism and Greece are intertwined concepts. How dynamically can alternative forms of tourism get in the tourism’s map?

The alternative forms of tourism are the spear heading in the Government’s new strategy to enlarge the tourist season to 12 months per year. Sea tourism, agro tourism, conference tourism, culture tourism, religious tourism, gastronomical tourism, sports tourism are some of the fields where we have concentrated our interest and in cooperation with all the parties involved we are working all of their proposals and suggestions in order to submit to the Parliament the draft legislation. The combination of climatic conditions in our country throughout the year with alternative forms of tourism can increase the number of tourists visiting our country.

In Greece, considering the economic crisis, are there margins or to be more specific, economic feasibility to offer suitable conditions for this kind of tourism?

Tourism, as you well know, annually contributes 18% of G.N.P. (Gross National Product), and offers work to more than 750,000 people. This moment, it consists one of the basic pillars of the economy and according to the estimates of economic analysts it has to give much more to our country in the coming years. We noticed that last year when we succeeded to endure despite the adverse existing condition. We are now going on by improving the quality of the provided services by promoting the ‘tourism’ product via the internet and the new technologies that ensure efficiency with less money compared to the traditional ways of promotion. In this effort we do need the help of all our fellow citizens and we call them to chooseGreeceas the place of their holidays, participating in this way in the effort we make to reset Greek economy.

What about the legislation for the development of alternative forms of tourism and the cooperation of the “Tour Operators” as well?

After a series of contacts and consultations with our European partners in the tourism industry, in the coming period we will be ready to introduce into the Greek Parliament the bill on tourist residences (tourist homes), agro tourism and the other alternative forms of tourism.  This bill aims to facilitate the development of infrastructure and activities related to agro tourism. The emergence of alternative tourism, both in infrastructure levels and promotional actions, is the tactic maneuvers of our country for increasing tourism income and extending tourism season.

What else, do you believe, has to be done for the development of tourism industry in our country?

With our policy,Greecehas restored its credibility in the major traditional tourism markets ofEuropethat is particularly important in this period. In parallel we take actions in new emerging markets such asChina,Japan,IndiaandIsraelwhere a strong preference for our country has been recorded. We expand the cooperation networks with low-cost airlines in most regional airports in 12 months’ time. We subsidize thousands of new jobs instead of giving unemployment benefits. We utilize new forms of communications like internet and social networks to promote our country. We create targeted communications campaigns depending on the country to which we refer. We build strong foundation for the future structure of Greek tourism industry.

Can ecotourism help to extend the tourism season?

The ecotourism has a lot of development fields, however It is always interwoven with activities that give people opportunities to enjoy both the environment and the countryside. In the alternatives camps operating throughout the country young children come into direct contact with nature by participating in relevant activities as reaping, fermenting their own bread, caring a farms animals and much more. Due to the particularly climatic conditions prevailing in our country most of the year it is clear that ecotourism can drastically contribute to extend tourism season.

People, who had as main occupation agriculture until now, how have they accepted agro tourism? Are there any difficulties in this new horizon? What is the role of “Kallikrates Project”?

Every change has its own difficulties. Agro tourism necessarily needs the farmers’ presence. Tourism life needs the visitors’ participation. We have to see all these under a new and fresher look. Especially, when it comes to change attitudes and practices which have consolidated over the years. The agro tourism’s goal is the natural environment and the human contact. This activity is not meant to substitute farming activities but to support them by offering to farmers an extra income. Our goal is to connect each region’s agriculture to culture, history and tourism. That means intergraded production networks, local self-sufficiency policies, agro tourism, cultural identity and organizations of services in cooperation with institutions, which lead to this direction.

What is the role of “green” energy in our country’s tourism industry? Do people, who are involved in tourism, have any benefits by using it?

Green development should be the focus of our actions and initiatives. Aegean islands have the highest wind energy potential which combined with photovoltaic power plants can be the spearhead for investments in Greece. Our goal is the changes we make, to lead in worthwhile investments. In parallel we edit projects already submitted by interested investors for building hotels that will make use of green energy.

In your everyday life, have you adopted methods of protecting the environment?

I try to apply simple everyday rules such us proper management of electrical appliances, avoidance of water waste, waste of a precious commodity, recycling paper, plastic etc. If everyone becomes conscious to these simple things, we will protect our environment and the planet where we live in.


Ecotourism in Greece

Introduction

Ecotourism, or else ecological tourism, is the travel and tourism activity to natural and/or protected areas. Ecotourism is mostly low scale and aims in educating the traveler while directly it provides economic benefits to the local communities. It appeals to socially conscious travelers and focuses on new ways to live on the planet. In most cases, it takes place in areas of rich flora, fauna and cultural heritage. In this section we provide you with a selection of various high-quality Ecotourism places in Greece:

Ionian Islands

Tracing a ragged line down the west coast of Greece at no more than 30 km from the mainland, the Ionian Islands form an independent group of small and large islands. They comprise a core group of seven; Corfu, Paxi-Antipaxi, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Kythira. A variety of relaxing trekking routes through the lowlands and a number of hiking on foot or by bike is still the best way to discover the hidden charms of the islands. Vast tracts of forest cloak the rugged landscape with peaks topping 5.000 feet, while plenty of beautiful golden beaches with hundreds of secluded white coves provide small havens to sun lovers. There are over 1.200 difference species of flowers and plants and a local fauna that boasts at least 30 different species of birds. Loggerhead turtles (Carreta – Carreta) has used the southern shores of Zakynthos to nest and lay their eggs.

Allonisos

For the eco tourist in Greece, Alonissos is the Sporades Island which has been designated one of the six “Eco Islands” of Europe by the European Community. Alonissos is in the heart of a protected Marine Park of Greece consisting of a number of small uninhabited islets which dot the waters around the Sporades islands. This Marine Park was established in 1992 and was set up with the intention of protecting one of the world’s most endangered species, the Monk Seal, which lives around the coast of Alonissos along with protecting rare species of flora and fauna on the island.

Anavra

The village of Anavra, in the Prefecture of Magnesia (near Almyros, Volos City) is a template village. In time of crisis Anavra has zero unemployment and a growing population. It produces its own energy from renewable sources (RES), and it owns a wind park (ensuring annual fixed income). It has a standard technological animal slaughterhouse and livestock infrastructure protecting the approximately 25 thousand animals from winters, when Anavra is blocked by snowstorms. Also there is an environmental and cultural Park of 80 acres, with natural water sources, ancient trees, bridges, watermills and “mantania”, a construction for the treatment and cleaning of fabrics with the help of water.

Zagorochoria – Epirus

Εpirus, also known as the “land of many stone bridges”, is made up of the prefectures of Arta, Thesprotia, Ioannina (where Zagoro-choria are) and Preveza and occupies the northwestern part of the Greek mainland. A vast open-air folklore museum replete with magnificent stone bridges, traditional settlements, works created throughout the ages by the hands of man which blend harmoniously with those created by nature itself: majestic landscapes, craggy mountains and gorges, the meeting place of three important rivers, breathtaking coastlines looking out onto the horizon. The diversity in its climate, in combination with the significant differences in altitude from area to area and the soil’s variability, all come together to create the perfect conditions for the development of a rich, indeed often rare, local flora and fauna. This gives the visitor the opportunity to see uncommon native plants such as the buttonball, the crocus and the beautiful red lily, as well as to admire unique animal species including the brown bear, otter, wolf, wild goat, deer and wild cat. Also tourists can visit the legendary valley of Valia Kalda, Arkoudorema, Lyngos, Mavrovouni and the historical Tzoumerka.

Thrace – East Macedonia

Located on the northeastern edge of Greece, the region encompasses three prefectures on Thrace and two on Eastern Macedonia. Bestowed with the most hydro-biotopes in Greece protected by the European Union, offers sanctuary to rare and protected bird species. The region’s southern Aegean coastline is dotted with vast sweeps of crystal-clear sandy beaches, as well as with rare rocky coves. The area’s rich flora and fauna includes the majority of the plant and animal species on Greek soil. Vistonida Lake, the Delta of Evros and Nestos Rivers, the Dadia Forest, the Mitrikos Lake, are all areas where one can meet species tending to extinct worldwide.

Crete

Lying at the point where the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa meet, Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. Crete is home to a rich variety of flora that contains over a hundred species of wild flowers and herbs, unique to the island. Equally as varied as the flora, the Cretan fauna includes the unique Cretan wild goat, the “agrimi” or “kri-kri”, found on the Lefka Mountains, as well as a wide variety of mammals, lizards, snakes and an extensive bird-life. The City of Heraklion, Crete, promotes green tourism and implements green tactics in the tourism sector under the European program “The Intelligent Energy Europe” aiming to increase energy efficient tourism movements on the island.

*sources / more places to see :  alternativegreece.gr, ecotourism.org, ecozante.gr, greentravelguides.org