The Greek island of Alonissos, a North Aegean isle north of Evia, has been named one of the Top Destinations for Ecotourism.
ABTA Magazine, the publication representing the UK’s largest Travel Association, released its top destinations for ecotourism recently; in second place is the Greek island of Alonissos. As ecotourism – or green tourism – has become increasingly important to travelers, especially since COVID-19, ABTA and the tourism industry as a whole, have begun to focus on the resulting trends.
The popular hotel booking platform Booking.com reported that 81% of travelers say they want to stay in sustainable accommodations in the upcoming year – which is a notable increase from 62% in 2016, when Booking.com first conducted its sustainable travel research, and up 7% from 74% in 2020, just prior to the pandemic.
Alonissos: The Original Destination for Ecotourism
It is not surprising to anyone who has been watching the eco-friendly development of Alonissos over the decades, that the island is a top tourist attraction because of its natural beauty and preservation mindset. In 1986, the Prefecture of Magnesia, to which the island belongs, sought to protect the indigenous Mediterranean monk seal with the signing of the first resolution to that effect. By 1992, the area was officially declared a National Marine Park, when commercial and recreational fishing was banned.
As in much of Greece, though, what is to be preserved and considered natural, extends to its ancient history and antiquities. In 2020, the island of Alonissos innovated once more by opening the world’s first underwater museum, The Underwater Museum of Peristera. This underwater museum featured the shipwreck of Peristera from the 5th Century BC and went on to win a European Award in the winter of the same year.
It is not surprising that ABTA Magazine pointed to both the Natural Marine Park and the Underwater Museum as two of the three reasons for which Alonissos was selected as the number two destination for ecotourism. The third reason is the banning of plastic bags from the island, which was enacted in 2015. The island also offers a plethora of hiking trails and other, less invasive activities, which appeal to eco-friendly tourists.
Culture and Nature – Ecotourism in Alonissos
This unique combination of culture and nature means that Alonissos aligns with ecotourism desires for one more reason: as the Booking.com sustainable tourism report concluded, tourists value respect for the local community, as almost three quarters (73%) want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel, while 84% believe increasing cultural understanding and preservation of cultural heritage is crucial.
“This great distinction benefits not only Alonissos but also the whole of Greece,” said the mayor of Alonissos, Petros Vafinis, who continued by saying that in order for this international recognition to be maintained, more municipalities must invest in the substantial development of such projects.
Topping the list of ecotourism destinations was Costa Rica, with its own natural parks and forest reserves and a huge number of eco-friendly lodging options. Other European, American and African destinations were also among the contenders for the best ecotourism destinations in 2021.