For the fourth year in a row, Greece is at the forefront of developments in European tourism
In light of the extreme weather events that occurred in Greece this summer, ECTAA (European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations), FedHATTA (Federation of Hellenic Associations of Travel and Tourism Agencies) and HATTA (Hellenic Association of Tourist and Travel Agencies), in collaboration with the Greek Tourism Organization (GNTO), convened an urgent meeting on September 28, 2023, at the Plaza Hotel Resort, to discuss the pressing need for sustainable practices in tourism. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the biannual, two-day conference of ECTAA in Palaia Fokaia.
In addition to the representatives of the European and Greek travel agencies, the President of GNTO, Angela Gerekou, and General Secretary of GNTO, Dimitris Fragakis, took part.
“Sustainability represents the opportunity, for a destination like Greece, to evolve and thrive in harmony with the planet. It requires ambition, foresight and investment. The Greek authorities are committed and are already working actively to make our country a leader in sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean Basin,” Mrs. Gerekou emphasized in her introduction.
For his part, Mr. Fragakis referred to the Greek tourism strategy, which, especially in the last four years in collaboration with ECTAA, a consistent strategic partner of Greek tourism, is reaping benefits for every aspect of its tourist product. He also extended special recognition to tourist offices and tour organizers, who connect clients worldwide to Greek tourism.
ECTAA: Deep responsibility towards destinations and the environment
A general conclusion of the conference proceedings is that, with the privilege of transformative experiences that travel offers to people, comes a profound responsibility towards destinations and the environment. In an era defined by climate change and environmental degradation, the travel industry must embrace sustainability as an imperative
Frank Oostdam, president of ECTAA, said: “The travel industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a clear way forward through the promotion and dissemination of sustainable practices, including investments in renewable energy sources, energy-efficient transport and carbon offset schemes, to reduce emissions and tackle climate change.”
Sustainable tourism practices must also include disaster preparedness and risk management in order to make destinations more resilient to crises, whether natural environment or health. Travellers are increasingly choosing destinations and businesses that prioritize sustainability. By adopting environmentally friendly initiatives, the travel industry can enhance its reputation, attract responsible travellers and remain competitive in a changing market. Travellers are not just consumers, they are potential supporters of sustainability. When they experience sustainable practices firsthand, they become ambassadors for change, spreading awareness and inspiring others to make conscious choices.
FedHATTA, HATTA and ECTAA representatives committed to exchange experiences and knowledge on sustainable tourism. This collective commitment aims to build a brighter, more responsible and more inspiring future for the travel industry and the world.
Discussions also focused on the European Green Claims proposal, adopted by the Commission in March 2023, which aims to tackle greenwashing, protect consumers and promote environmental responsibility in commercial practices between businesses and consumers. Similar attention was given to the legislative proposal adopted in July 2023, which seeks to overcome obstacles to the harmonization of the measurement and calculation of greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. Although this Regulation does not mandate reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, it paves the way for incentives and greater accountability, ultimately leading the tourism industry to a more efficient and sustainable future. ECTAA, FedHATTA and HATTA remain committed to these initiatives and continue to work collectively to ensure the responsible development of the travel industry and its alignment with global sustainability goals.
Afterwards, Mr. Grigoris Toulias from the Organization of Tourism Promotion and Marketing of the Prefecture of Thessaloniki, in a short presentation, referred to the fact that Thessaloniki was until today just a transit hub to other destinations, through the airport, the port and its railway station. But now, given its 2300 years of history and all kinds of important monuments that it has to protect, it is beginning to dynamically place sustainability in tourism high on its agenda.
The meeting was honored with the presence of Kyriaki Boulasidou, Director of GNTO in the Netherlands.
The President of FedHATTA, Lysandros Tsilidis, said: “We are very proud that for the fourth consecutive year, ECTAA, through the institution of Preferred Destination, is visiting many regions of our country, highlighting them through the mechanism of its 80,000 member tourist offices and proving once again that tourist and travel agencies and tour operators constitute the sector of the tourism market that trades world tourism.”
The President of HATTA, and candidate for Municipal Councilor with the coalition ATHENA PSILA, Nikolas Kelaiditis, said: “HATTA has been active in ECTAA for 45 years, and the knowledge and experience gained allows us to participate in the decisions of our European body for the well-being of our country.”
Following the event, a closed-door meeting was held between representatives of ECTAA, FedHATTA, HATTA and EGFATT, the European Association of Guarantee Funds for Travel and Tourism, during which the guarantee systems in place in other European countries for the needs of organized travel, in accordance with the requirements of the relevant European legislation, and ways were sought to establish a corresponding guarantee fund for this purpose in Greece as well. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Tourism and the National Bank of Greece.
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