Responsible tourism- eco-tourism- sustainability programmes
Tourism is the main industry for most of the Ionian Islands and an important contributor to the local economy of each of the islands. But as the tourism industry has grown and keeps on expanding, the impact on the landscape has become impossible to ignore. Mass tourism comes at a great environmental burden in many ways, the most obvious being the effects on the landscape and lately also the waste.
Inabilities to implement laws and regulations in the country and the weakness of the land use regime, have resulted in coastal areas to mainly be seen as potential places for holiday accommodations and hardly as nature areas. The results include deforestation (or clearing other types of vegetation), draining of aquifers due to swimming pools and water use overall, deliberate change of local biodiversity, land and marine pollution and a lot more. Conversely, on islands like Ithaca, Lefkada and Kephallonia a more eco-friendly tourism industry is emerging.
There are many good reasons why development patterns should change, ranging from aesthetics to the needs for climate change adaptation. Often businesses recognise the need to act responsibly, however there is a lack of leadership in taking things further. The fact that there is growing awareness among segments of visitors to the islands can encourage the starting of a process of change.
Even though sustainable tourism is not a theme of priority for the first years for the IEF, it is a crosscutting theme that one can work on through different initiatives. There is significant potential for a more sustainable tourism across the region.We will seek for partnerships with businesses and tour operators, which want to provide positive examples and are interested to adopt sustainable practices and programmes.