So I arrived safe and sound in Larnaca yesterday with Tracey and Jez and checked into the Hilton Park in Nicosia. What becomes apparent when I see the agenda is that there are lots of different people to see and so I start to formulate questions and think about who we need to influence in Cyprus to make a sustainable difference.
Philippos (Chairman, Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative or CSTI) and Elia (Programmes Manager, CSTI) are very passionate about sustainability and about Cyprus which is extremely encouraging. This morning, Thursday, we met the Commissioner of the Environment, Charalampos, who is also very active with the green party - he works directly for the President of Cyprus.
Charalampos is a 30-year veteran of environmental issues in Cyprus and is a real activist for change. He tells us about some of the government’s current plans from planting a million trees over the next 18 months to plans for building 10 plants to turn organic waste into energy. Cyprus takes control of the EEC presidency in 2012 and you can see the country is excited about what they can do to influence the decision makers in Brussels.
I start talking about how we, as tour operators, can make a difference to the sustainable future of Cyprus. He is really pleased to hear what we have done to date along with The Travel Foundation and I can see by the mountain bike in his office he practises what he preaches! When I tell him four of us are crushed into a Vauxhall Astra he is pleased we didn't take two cars.....
One thing which is mentioned a number of times in the meeting is the importance of education. All of us in the travel industry have a key part to play in sustainable tourism in order to make a difference.
We move onto the subject of water - a very hot topic for an island that over the last few years had to ration the water and in 2009 had to ship water in from Greece.....I learn that 300,000 illegal bore holes have been dug and the underground reservoir is now 40% under sea level and filling with sea water. I agree to send through some of the work that my colleagues in the TUI Sustainable Development team have done on creating guidelines for environmental sustainability in hotels. We leave after a photo opportunity and I promise to mention his blog http://theopemptou.blogspot here on my blog!
Next stop is the PASYXE (Cyprus Hotel Association). My gag about how many points that earns on a scrabble board falls on deaf ears but our message of sustainable tourism is very well received. I start to learn that Cyprus is a complicated island in more ways than one as each resort falls in a different municipality and therefore has different rules and regulations regarding water and waste. I also listen to some of their frustrations with central government, like the total lack of natural gas and the rising energy prices. When we tell them the amount of money some of our partners have saved through energy efficiency, they really sit up and pay attention.
We discuss incentives for staff who work in hotels that conserve the most energy. With one hotel chain offering the staff of their top performing sustainable hotel a free mountain bike, it gives new meaning to the phrase ‘get on yer bike’!
After lunch with the Mayoress of Nicosia and the Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, we start to get a picture of the issues a capital city of 225k people can have when you have streets that a street cleaner can't get down as the Venetians built them.....
Our last meeting of the day is with the MD of the Louis Group, a huge player in Cyprus tourism, with hotels, cruise ships and incoming tourism business. They highlight the need for more public transport to take cars off the road and talk us through their initiatives with coaches. They can monitor all their coaches so they understand speed, fuel consumption and even driving behaviour - it’s like ‘Big Brother’ for bus drivers!
We start to get onto the subject of local produce. Around 70% of food consumed in hotels is locally produced and 30% imported. There is a real worry that local produce is becoming too expensive as I sadly learn the local seas are nearly empty of fish and most fish you eat in Cyprus is frozen and exported in.
Day one is nearly done with just a dinner tonight with the CSTI (Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative) team, Pelagos consultants and PWC solid waste management, bringing with it a chance to discuss two projects they are about to embark on regarding solid waste issues in hotels and greening of the beaches. It also means I get to have more feta cheese which thank goodness is not at risk of running out as its fantastic stuff.......
17 Feb 2011 05:44 PM