The challenge of conservation in a top tourist destination and sustainable tourism
The first generations of ARCHELON volunteers experienced how the nesting beaches in Zakynthos, Kyparissia, Lakonikos, Rethymno, Chania, Messara used to look like back in the 80’s and the 90’s. The volunteers of the years to follow, including the children of ARCHELON’s first volunteers, have heard the stories, and have seen tourism evolving in these sites. But why is the future of tourism important for sea turtles?
Thomas Arapis, the President of ARCHELON, brings the issue into perspective: “Scientific evidence have long suggested that female loggerhead hatchlings will return as adults to nest at the same beaches they were born in. Hence, the question guiding the efforts of ARCHELON has been: how will this beach look like in 15-20 years from now, when this years’ hatchlings will come back to nest?”
The question is still pertinent in 2021 and will continue to be so because of climate change and the overexploitation of natural resources of the planet. Currently most of the 74 km of beaches monitored by ARCHELON for concentrated sea turtle nesting activity in Greece are affected by tourism. Amongst them there are Crete and Zakynthos which are top tourist destinations, already very developed. These two areas, as some other top destinations in Greece, will be greatly affected by climate change according to a recent study by Dianeosis and Athens University (2021).
The study suggests that to address the impacts of climate change, local governments and businesses will need to manage tourist flows and the natural/ cultural resources of these areas to limit any further concentration of tourist development. At the same time, efforts should be made to restructure as much as possible the sectors of production in these destinations as well as the existing building infrastructure.
Many people agree that sustainable tourism is the right way to go and are eager to apply solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change and overexploitation of natural resources in tourist destinations. “There are many approaches to sustainable tourism but whichever one picks up to work with, will need to ensure that wildlife species and habitats will not be further compromised” continues Thomas. “Every sector, every organization, every one of us, is called upon to contribute to sustainable tourism, because, according to EUROPARC’s inspiring words: Sustainable Tourism is a state of mind, a conscious effort to work, live and be on holiday in a different way”.
Starting this summer, ARCHELON invites all 2021 volunteers to participate in a relevant survey and complete a Sustainability Questionnaire with regards to their project location. The results will be presented and discussed in an online workshop around the end of the year.
Thomas Arapis discussed the challenge of conservation in a top tourist destination in the Blue Panda Lab with the theme: Tourism and Marine Protected Areas in the post-Covid era, organized by WWF-Greece in July 2021, in Zakynthos. You can watch on YouTube the presentation (in English).