across the Greek islands has shown that development and
tourism and then over development and mass tourism of an
island destination ultimately discourages tourists. However
this is not the case in Zakynthos, yet…unfortunately.
Numbers of tourists in 2006 increased, up by 3% in August
and 2% in July from 2005, as quoted in a newspaper article
calculated from arrival numbers.
It is often hoped that sustainable 'ecotourism' would be
the ideal solution but in reality things are much more complex.
Tourism can work as a double-edged sword, both contributing
and detracting from the local people and environment. The
economic benefits for local residents can be enormous, yet
when they 'own' tavernas and bars on a 'Strictly Protected'
nesting beach these needs and wants are difficult to balance.
MEDASSET. Photo: C. Yung, 1998.
In Zakynthos the beaches in the National
Marine Park have been restored, but at what price? Achieving
restoration of 15-30m of the nesting section of the beach
in Daphne, has come at the price of new illegal renovations,
extensions, constructions and development and breaches of
National and EC legislation and of the European Court of
Justice ruling. The illegal buildings owners have been given
promises through signed 'co-operative agreements' by, the
Minister of Environment appointed, President of the NMPZ
to somehow appease them to cooperate with other management
measures and ultimately avoid a large fine from the European
Court of Justice. Little genuine concern and consideration
has been given to ecological concerns in Zakynthos, nor
any measures taken to be more 'eco-friendly' in the future.
local inhabitants resistant to any concept of 'conservation'
or 'protection' of the environment, how can eco-tourism
be integrated within a tourism profile? Ecotourism and 'sustainable
development' must be given both local and political support
to implement initiatives in a comprehensive and dynamic
way. Adopting a new strategy of tourism, development and
urban planning needs to work on all levels of Government,
decision-makers and NGOs with the support and understanding
of the local community. The trend in tourism in Zakynthos,
despite being privileged with such a natural draw card as
the loggerhead sea turtle, is the same as many other islands-
development and 'conventional' tourism of sea, sand and
sex rather than environmentally focused 'niche' tourism
that is emerging in other parts of the world that is based
on retaining the local environment. Tourists and the fickle
tourism industry, will eventually no longer desire these
'package tours' to islands that are over-developed, polluted
and destroyed and instead seek more 'natural' environments
cycle goes on... Economic pressure from an eventual decline
in tourism may be the catalyst for re-conceptualising the
tourism and environmental protection model in Zakynthos
and Greece, let us hope that is not too late for the turtles.
more information about Zakynthos please visit: www.medasset.org