Over recent years people have become more interested in sustainable tourism. Many of us have already tried to reduce (as much as possible) our negative imprint on the environment during our stay in another country; and this is becoming more important than ever.
As we all navigate through what will be a new way of travelling, Greek tourism and travel expert Maria Athanasopoulou shares her tips on how we can become more sustainable tourists during our next visit to Greece.
By Maria Athanasopoulou
To be a sustainable tourist, you need to travel, stay, eat and have fun at places that implement sustainable practices. You also need to try to give back as much as possible to the local community you are visiting; as well as ensuring you respect the locals, their culture, and customs.
Let us not forget that when we travel, we always become guests. And guests should always respect their host.
Sustainable tourism is a philosophy and a way of life, which is not difficult to adopt. I believe it will not take us long to get used to this idea and it will hopefully become easier to see the positive aspect as we give back to our environment, to the people, and to the places we visit.
Greece is a country where sustainable practices have been constantly evolving and in recent years many food and tourism companies have invested their time and money to sustainable tourism.
Here are some tips on what we, individuals can do to be responsible – ethical and sustainable – tourists in Greece.
1. Pay attention to the way you move, while you are at your destination.
Opt to walk where possible, or cycle where you can instead of driving. Otherwise, let us not forget the means of public transport.
An example is your movement while vacationing on one of the Greek islands. Usually, the distances to the capitals but also to the villages of the Greek islands and the mainland, are not far.
So, you will have the opportunity to move on foot and get to know the place much better. One of my favourites is the promenade walk in the capital of Mykonos, from the new port to the windmills. Also, a walk in the old port of Chania, or a walk on the promenade of Thessaloniki is always a good idea! Wherever you are, you can walk to your destination and see many hidden sights as you go.
2. Choose carefully where you stay
Many hotels and hostels in Greece have started to implement sustainable practices. Wherever you travel in Greece, you will have a choice regarding sustainable accommodation.
Even if you choose to stay in a big city like Athens or Thessaloniki, you will definitely find a hotel that applies energy-saving practices, uses local products for the food they serve, has local vendors, local staff, etc. All these are sustainable practices and it is important to financially support the businesses who are trying to implement them.
For example, in northern Greece, in beautiful Halkidiki, you will find Nine Muses Studios, next to one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, Kalamitsi. The accommodation is located in nature, while the owners support sustainable tourism in many ways. Serving breakfast using excellent local products, supporting Greek wine and Greek beer producers, making sure they are reducing food waste, recycling, etc.
You will find such accommodations with similar action everywhere in Greece and there is a great range of hotels that are on board, so you will definitely find one that suits your taste and budget.
3. Eat locally
During your vacation, try to taste the authentic recipes of the region you visit. In Greece, wherever you travel, you will find restaurants that cook with fresh and organic local ingredients, and the dishes are of great variety and quality. This way, you support the local producers, but also the owners of the restaurants that support traditional Greek gastronomy.
For example, in Kalamata, the restaurant “Ta Rolla”, has already started to implement many sustainable practices, such as using local authentic products in all their dishes, offering food that is leftover every day to groups of people who need it, etc. In “Rolla” you can choose what to eat from a wide variety of local recipes and drinks.
4. Respect the environment
Wherever you are in Greece, you will no doubt have a great time. While you enjoy your holidays, show your respect towards Greek nature and the Greek cities, with your daily behaviour. Avoid reckless use of natural energy sources, avoid using plastic, avoid using a car even for your short transfers, in general, try to burden the environment as little as possible.
5. Support the local communities
Buy gifts and items from small local shops. You will have better service, better prices and this way, you will financially support the local community of the place you visit. Shopping is a first-class opportunity to meet the locals, to chat with them, and through this communication you can discover the special identity of each place.
6. Become one with nature
No matter what destination you decide to visit in Greece, try spending a day in an area with activities that bring you close to nature; such as bird watching, swimming in a lake, hiking in nature, etc. There are gorges of exceptional beauty in Greece such as Samaria in Crete and Vikos in Epirus, places where one can indulge in bird watching such as Dadia in Thrace or Lake Kerkini. Look for places where you can go horseback riding, or get to know one of the mythical rivers of Greece such as Acheron in Epirus or Ladonas in the Peloponnese.
Greece is an ideal holiday destination for millions of people around the world. It has imposing monuments, beautiful nature and most of all, hospitable people. Visit Greece as often as you can, and show the country and its people your love!
Maria Athanasopoulou is the founder of the tourism marketing company Respond On Demand. She is also the founder of the non-profit urban company Top Tourism. She serves as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the World Food Travel Association and she is also a Master Culinary Travel Professional. She serves as an ambassador of the World Gourmet Society in Greece and Cyprus, and she also serves as an ambassador of Green Destinations. She has given seminars for tourism professionals, as well as many speeches and presentations on tourism issues, in events in Greece and abroad. She is also a Sustainable Tourism marketing expert.
Cover image Nine Muses Studios