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"Paths of Greece is a Social Cooperative Entreprise because all its members share a common goal, which is to add value to a place for the benefit of the local economy, the local society and the environment"
Fivos Tsaravopoulos is the Founder and Manager of Paths of Greece. After studying abroad for about 8 years, and being 'fascinated' by ecotourism, he returned to Greece with a 'strong will to contribute to the betterment of tourism'. He soon realised Greece's ecotourism potential and particularly through the development of Greece's ancient hiking trails. His ideas found a very positive response all over the country, at the mainland or on the islands. He thus founded Paths of Greece, a small co-operative enterprise, in order to re-discover, clear, way-mark and promote hiking trails. Today, he has already worked on many great projects, summing up to many hundreds of km of trails. His work has helped him discover the importance of quality in tourism, but has also strengthened his belief that local economy, local societies and the environment are all intertwined, and that through trails they all get tremendous benefits.
ECOCLUB.com: How did you come up with this wonderful idea and what were the key early obstacles you had to overcome? In particular, was there a clear legal framework for allowing you to repair the local paths? And what key law or policy changes would facilitate your efforts in the future?
Fivos Tsaravopoulos: The idea came into my mind a few years ago, when I re-discovered the island of Kythera through its wonderful trails. Unfortunately, back in 2008, the trails of Kythera were unknown, closed by vegetation and there was very little or no information available about them. I did struggle to find them, but the effort rewarded me with a totally new love for this island. Soon, I contacted a local Foundation, the Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development, so that we start a project on the island to bring these old, forgotten trails, back to life. So we did and now Kythera has a great trails network, called Kythera Hiking (www.kytherahiking.com). Through the development of the trails network on Kythera, I realised that the whole country was full of forgotten trails, hiding real treasures and with great potential to attract hikers if well developed. This is how the idea of creating Paths of Greece came into my mind. So far we have only encountered minor obstacles as we always choose the “easy” way to clear and repair trails. We focus on the aspect of tourism rather than on the technical part. This is also what we are fighting for, to have the Greek State realise that hiking trails are a matter of tourism rather than engineering. The trails have existed for many years. All they need is to be cleared and to be promoted to hikers all over the world.