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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 April 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 APRIL 2018 21 TRAVEL The ongoing arrival of cruise ships has taken a toll on Santorini’s capacity to welcome tourists. A map of the Eastern Mediterranean Coalition destinations. The iconic lanes of Oia are flooded with thousands of visitors, when cruise ships arrive. it out to tourists and this creates all kinds of problems from an employment perspective." And it is not only Airbnb. "Tourism is now largely managed or run by multinationals," says Mr Ermogenis, stating the examples of websites like Expedia or Booking.com, that control most online bookings. "They are just doing their business, they don't care about the effect they have on the community and they will not listen to one village. But if we have a coalition of 10 or 20 of the most popular destinations in the world, they cannot, and will not, ignore us," he says. This is how the Eastern Mediterranean Coalition was formed, with the participation of Gruppo 25 Aprile, an organisation representing the citizens of Venice. The coalition was expanded to include Dubrovnik, Corfu, Crete and Ibiza. "They too have exactly the same problems," says Mr Ermogenis. "The bottom line is we need to talk with a single voice. Unless we manage to turn mass, unplanned tourism into sustainable tourism, we are facing the risk of turning into Disneyland. No-one would visit a Greek island if it started to look like Disneyland. They want to see the little houses, they want to see the local community, the people going about their lives; it's part of the experience. The minute you turn that into a theme park, all that disappears." The answer for the coalition is to apply a model of sustainable tourism, with a focus on the protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage. "Sustainable tourism is a very well-documented management model, there are best practices that have been documented for years," says Mr Ermogenis. "To a large extent they're not well executed, because it's too hard for politicians to implement these practices. In Greece at least we have not received support from Athens, even though tourism is a major - if not THE biggest factor in the Greek economy. As far as they're concerned, cruises are good for Greece because they bring money. We don't see it that way. For us quantity is not the answer, quality is the answer; in other words we don’t want to have 20,000 visitors in one day, we would much rather have people who would want to come to Santorini, stay a couple of days, learn about the island, see the island properly and enjoy it, rather than people who come here for an hour, walk around and then say that they've been to Santorini, putting a tick on a list." The first step is to use their network to create awareness, with an aim of gaining the attention of the European Union to create legislation that will protect these destinations from the dramatic changes of the tourism industry. "Our communities are centuries old, if not thousands of years old. They were not built with mass tourism in mind." As far as Oia is concerned, Citizens of Oia are planning to roll out an initiative to raise awareness to friends of the iconic destination from all over the world, "people who've been to Oia several times, they love the place and they want to see it protected," says Mr Ermogenis. "Apart from the Acropolis, Oia is probably the most photographed place in Greece," he stresses. "I think there are more photos of Oia circulating on social media daily than there are of the Acropolis and other places of Greece. In other words, we are the face of Greece. Given that the government is not willing to accept the fact that Oia should have spe- cial status, we are trying to do whatever we can to make sure that the face of Greece is protected." Michael Ermogenis, president of the Citizens of Oia Association.
21 April 2018
5 May 2018