Ecoclub Member Blogs

Antonis is an Eco Hospitality Consultant and the Founder of Ecoclub, the International Ecotourism Club.

Green Underground

191009-iera-odos The Sacred Way
The greenest, quickest and safest way to explore a big city often is to use the underground. No hopping on and hopping off double-deckers stuck in traffic or lethal (to you and pedestrians) electric scooters. No more so than in Athens where many underground stations are museums in their own right. Get off at any station and walk 1 km in each direction and you will sample the real sounds, tastes and smells of each neighbourhood. Taking Line 3 to Egaleo station today I missed a couple of trains due to the fascinating ancient artefact displays next to the platform. And two more trains must have already passed by while I was admiring the best preserved section of the 2,500+ year old Sacred Way or ΙΕΡΑ ΟΔΟΣ  (see picture) discovered a few years ago when the station was built! 
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Thomas Cooking No More

190923-thomas-cook
Does the sudden demise of Thomas Cook, two years after that of Monarch, another tour operator-airline, signal the end of the era of the giant, mainstream tour operator hit by the giant internet meteorite? Is it a welcome step away from concentration (Thomas Cook having merged with MyTravel in 2007 to create a European 'giant') towards economic democracy,or just a shift from the high street chain, where now only a small minority purchase their holidays, to bookings through Online Travel Agencies/platforms and, to a lesser extent, directly through provider's social media and websites? Thomas Cook's rivals such as TUI, do not seem to suffer from such problems as they are vertical companies that own their accommodation, so it is too soon to say, if Thomas Cook's demise is part of a broader trend of socioeconomic significance. Other factors at play, according to analysts were Brexit-related uncertainty and the devaluation of sterling it...
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Small accommodations and environmentally unfriendly guests

190915-unfriendly-guests
There are plenty of guidelines on what hosts need to do to become eco-friendly but precious little on how to get the guests to also be environmentally friendly, which is a different matter than how to attract eco-friendly guests. Most small establishments, apart from luxury boutique accommodation, are not choosy and do not exclude guests through pricing. In most parts of the world, the average price-sensitive guest in small accommodations and short rentals does not enjoy being lectured and will probably not venture further than the first page of your long list of do's and don'ts. She/he feels that as they have paid for this holiday, they are entitled to use as much electricity and water as he wants without sparing a second's thought for the Amazon fires and the Climate Crisis. Since, as they think, 'it is included' in the price, it makes sense having the air-con 24/7 and at a low temperature and...
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Leaving no footprints is no longer enough

In an era of climate crisis and mass migration, leaving no footprints is no longer enough - Responsible tourists should leave solidarity footprints behind, we need a positive, progressive, green impact tourism! Two inspiring examples from Greece: 1. Welcommon Hostel, Athens (Web:  https://welcommonhostel.gr ): A seven-floor building in the centre of Athens, a former public clinic, converted into a hostel and run by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis (Wind of Renewal), led by former Green MEP (Member of European Parliament) Mr Nikos Chrysogelos. Since 2018 it offers inexpensive, eco-accommodation and is also a center for social and green innovation and the arts, making bridges between locals, migrants and refugees. It is disabled-friendly and bicyle-friendly. Two floors function as an open centre for social empowerment and inclusion, creating new employment opportunities in areas such as upcycling, ethnic cuisines, culture, green / cyclic economy, energy efficiency and others. Classes are offered (languages, painting,...
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Ikaria: Blue, Red and Green

The Greek island of Ikaria, (or Icaria, after Icarus) is famously one of the planet's 5 blue zones, with one of the world’s greatest life expectancy, and the lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Less known outside Greece is the fact that it combines its healthy and leisurely lifestyle with being a red fortress (or vestige) where the communists are the dominant force, although the communist candidate unexpectedly lost with "just" 42% in the May 2019 municipal elections. And it is now turning Green and able to cover 50% of its energy needs with renewable energy through an innovative Euros 50m development, inaugurated by the Greek Public Power Corporation (DEH) on World Environment Day 2019: a pumped storage clean energy plant that combines wind and hydraulic energy, named "Naeras" from "Nero-Water" and "Aeras-Wind". Essentially wind energy from a wind park, is "stored" by pumping water from a lower reservoir to an...
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Making Ecolabels Affordable, User-friendly and Transparent.

190522-solar-bank-ulcumano Photo of Solar Bank provided by Ulcumano Ecolodge of Peru, during their Ecoclub Desktop Audit, March 2019
One of the main impediments for the expansion of ecolabels to small accommodations. The undeniable, rarely uttered truth, is that all the best-known, credible, labels charge far more than a small hotelier can afford or is willing/used to pay, for services that they do not consider as absolutely necessary or legally required. Worse, the process is time-consuming for small owners that have to multi-task every day. Part of the solution is making ecolabels required by law, at least for accommodations of a certain size. Quality Tour Operators may also make accommodation ecolabels necessary, if they give preference to certified accommodation. But the real solution is making ecolabels affordable and user-friendly. A quick way of doing both is to introduce remote, online, real-time audits using Skype, or similar free conferencing software. At the one end the Auditor can request the auditee (usually the owner in small properties) to show her/him in real...
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Sharing Economy Uplifts Downtown Athens

Sharing Economy Uplifts Downtown Athens
Much-maligned by a small but vocal anti(over)tourism fringe and misguided hoteliers, Airbnb (and copycat platforms, imitation being the most sincere form of flattery) have single-handedly changed Tourism for ever. They have democratised it, spreading benefits widely and deeply into local communities and neighbourhoods. This is very much so in our home city, Athens, where Airbnb and the subway have transformed formerly run-down, down-town areas and offered a lifeline to lower-middle class owners, during the protracted Greek financial crisis which saw unemployment rates soar to 25% (currently at around 18%). The beneficial effects of the tourism sharing economy in Athens, a classic city break and an ancient tourism destination, were recognised in a one-day conference focusing on the future of Tourism Rentals held yesterday, 9 May 2019, in Athens. The event, attended by mayoral and regional candidates with local elections taking place in two weeks, was co-organised by the Athens Merchants Association (ESA)...
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The era of the so-called

The era of the so-called
When we describe something as 'so-called' we do not really take a neutral position but imply that it should not be called this: note the expression "your so-called friends". Personally, I always use the words 'so-called' in front of 'Overtourism', as, although I recognise that the term is in popular use, I dispute that it is a new phenomenon, which merits the invention of fancy new tools. It is simply, a result of 'Undermanagement', a result of the lack or inappropriate use of tried and tested tools backed by tens of thousands of academic research papers and best case studies. Even in our famously disorganised (famous) city, we do not get any Overtourism in the extremely confined and slippery place that is the Acropolis despite millions visiting every year. The term 'Overtourism' also has population alarmist (cf. 'Overpopulation') and racist, xenophobic undertones and does not go well with green, pro-tourism, open...
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A Green Dream for All

Hearing the news about China’s newfound emphasis on ecological civilisation , and noting the growing movement for a Green New Deal in the US it dawned on me that political ecology can be the humanising influence on all the four distinct, and largely successful, political & socioeconomic models: the American, the European, the Chinese and, lest we forget, the Cuban model. Green principles can help all these models converge into one: rather than an American or a "Chinese Dream" let us have a Green Dream! This would contribute to a permanent Détente and international cooperation under the aegis of the United Nations (much maligned but still humanity’s greatest achievement) so as to eradicate poverty and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Political ecology, with its emphasis on human rights, social justice, sustainability and internationalism/anti-chauvinism/anti-racism can keep these models away from their extreme versions - all these models had or can have extreme, authoritarian...
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The future: either green or dystopic

The future: either green or dystopic
It can be argued beyond any doubt that Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism are today part and parcel of the green movement, a diverse and colourful current ranging from liberal environmentalism to ecosocialism which has a far wider audience than the Green parties, although they also steadily widen and deepen their electoral base around the world. The green movement is not a temporary phenomenon. Greens are trying to meet the real needs of the 21st century as far as addressing and avoiding catastrophic climate change is concerned. Equally importantly, they are also indirectly attempting to create, in a gradual, voluntary, non-totalitarian and intelligent way, and even if some greens do not realise it, what 20th century radical movements totally botched: happy, free, healthy, classless societies. The 20th century failure of totalitarian recipes was no accident: the idea that a clique or a strongman could or would serve as a dictator curtailing all...
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