27/09/2023

World Tourism Day 2023: Are there sea turtle-friendly hotels in north Crete?

In 2023, World Tourism Day finds ARCHELON implementing together with TUI Care Foundation an innovative idea on the north coasts of Crete: a pilot certification for sea turtle-friendly hotels (the TUI Turtle-Friendly Tourism Certification) that aims to promote the protection of sea turtles and their habitats with the active participation of the tourism sector.

But why is tourism important to sea turtles?

“Scientific evidence shows that female loggerhead hatchlings will return as adults to nest at the same beaches they hatched from”, says the president of ARCHELON, Thomas Arapis. “So, in what condition will these beaches be in 15-20 years from now, when this year’s hatchlings will come back to nest?” he wonders.

A sea turtle hatchling going to the water for the first time

ARCHELON has been actively monitoring the sea turtle nesting beaches in Zakynthos, Kyparissia Bay, Lakonikos Bay, Rethymno, Chania, and Messara Bay for 40 years now. Most of these areas that are surveyed daily by volunteers every summer, are affected by tourism, while Zakynthos and Crete have become top global tourist destinations.

In an effort to reduce the impact of tourism on the nesting beaches, ARCHELON carries out public awareness actions through presentations in hotels and at the ARCHELON Information Stations. For example, from May to August around 10,200 visitors were informed by volunteers/researchers about the protection of sea turtles in Rethymno and learned how turtles and tourists can live together. However, observations of intense human activity on nesting beaches lead to the conclusion that there can be no future for sea turtles without a more active involvement of the tourism sector. This is where this new hotel certification comes in to help.

The informational kiosk in Rethymno with ARCHELON volunteers

The purpose of the TUI Turtle-Friendly Tourism Certification is to encourage sustainable development in tourism, by providing guidelines for businesses on the nesting beaches, and helping tourists make environmentally friendly choices when it comes to their accommodation and excursions. The main criteria that the hotels must meet are (a) that sunbeds are removed from the beach at night so that there is enough space for the 'mother' turtles to make their nests and (b) the lights of the hotels would not be visible from the beach so that the hatchlings do not get disoriented on their way to the sea.

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The "TUI Turtle Aid Greece" project by TUI Care Foundation and ARCHELON began with the cooperation of 2 hotels in Rethymno this summer and is expected to be extended to Chania in the following years. In collaboration with the sustainable tourism consulting company Ecoclub S.A., the project is expected to support and guide selected hotels in the process of implementing the new certification.

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