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Athens working toward sustainable tourism by commissioning destination assessment in partnership with GSTC

The Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis noted that Athens is embracing the “green revolution” that is taking shape across Europe and will submit its climate action plan for consultation at the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.

The City of Athens and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) have commissioned an assessment of Athens as a sustainable tourism destination in partnership with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

The process will include more than 70 on-site evaluations in the neighborhoods and parks of Athens, as well as public services, museums, archaeological sites and other attractions.

The Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, participated in the assessment by discussing the city’s strategy for sustainable development with Ioannis Pappas, Director of the Mediterranean Region and other representatives of GSTC. The meeting took place on Lycabettus Hill, one of the city’s most visible and crucial “urban lungs.” Beginning this summer, the landmark site will receive important upgrades to restore popular walking trails and prevent soil erosion.

"The principles of sustainability are already in our DNA,” Bakoyannis said during the meeting. “Lycabettus Hill is one example. Another is the restoration of the National Gardens, as well as projects that we are about to start on Strefi Hill and at Plato’s Academy, and interventions we would like to make on the hills west of the Acropolis. At the same time, there are large projects like the “Double Regeneration” on Alexandras Avenue and in the Botanikos neighborhood. There are many small projects such as the pocket parks, and the reconstruction of sidewalks in neighborhoods throughout Athens that will be done with better, more sustainable materials.

All of this is part of a strategy that gives emphasis to our urban lungs by reviving the city's greenery. For this purpose, in fact, we have quadrupled our budget,” he said while highlighting efforts to increase access to free public space across the city: "We are fighting for every square meter of public space. This is not an easy fight. It would not be easy in any city. But every square meter that you release and re-use is a square meter won.

Mayor Bakoyannis noted that Athens is embracing the "green revolution" that is taking shape across Europe and will submit its climate action plan for consultation at the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.

Asked to respond to questions about waste management, Mayor Bakoyannis noted that Athens is starting to change its philosophy: “The city not only needs waste bins to be emptied. The city needs water, it needs soap, and during the pandemic it also needs disinfectant. Now we are preparing to move on to the next phase, which is to install underground waste bins. We have already renewed 90% of our equipment, we have reorganized the waste management system, and now I dare say that Athens is cleaner than ever.

On the issue of waste recycling, he added: “Recycling in Athens was at 2% when I took office, something that is tragic and unacceptable. Today we are already at 5%, and we would be at 10% if it were not for the pandemic. I believe that at the end of 2022 we will be close to 10%. We have 20 new trucks to collect waste for recycling. So, we are on a very good path. I believe that when residents see the difference in the management of the city, they will come along with us, especially if we talk about our children who are far ahead of us and consider all this to be obvious.

The certification of Athens as a sustainable tourism destination will help the city to compete with other major European destinations, attracting visitors to experience the local quality of life while supporting the city's efforts in destination management.

"We are taking responsibility for everyone who lives in the city, who works in the city, who visits the city, or invests in the city. For us, they are all Athenians,” said Mayor Bakoyannis while pointing out that this program for Athens is only at the starting point. "This program requires more than one term. It is more than the work of a single mayor. But it is a program that has been delayed for many years. Athens lost 10-15 valuable years due to the crisis. So now what are we doing? We are running a marathon at the pace of a sprint,” he said.

As part of the assessment process, online workshops will provide city leaders with training on sustainable practices. Courses in sustainable tourism will provide participants with GSTC certification.

GSTC is an international organization that establishes and manages standards for sustainable travel and tourism in order to guide destinations toward the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The assessment utilizes the GSTC Destination Criteria for the management of cultural heritage, the protection and maintenance of the environment, and the economic benefit of tourism for local communities.

Since January, ADDMA has been a member of GSTC on behalf of the City of Athens.

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.