With tourism a major source of revenue, keeping their natural assets, such as their beaches, in good condition is a key priority for Cyprus. Enter the Greening Cyprus Beaches project, co-sponsored by the Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative, Cyprus Tourism Organisation and The Travel Foundation, a UK NGO promoting responsible outbound UK tourism.
This unique pilot project, underway at two popular beaches in Cyprus; Nissi Beach in Aiya Napa and Fig Tree Bay in Proteras, started in January 2012 and changes are slowly starting to be seen.Progress is tirelessly driven along by project manager, Irene Yiasemi with the aim of establishing a balance between tourist welfare, host communities and the environment. Getting all stakeholders to co-operate is no small task however and it certainly keeps Irene on her toes. Laughing, she said: “It does, but the result is worth it.”
Regular beach clean-ups serve a two fold purpose; getting rid of litter and cigarette butts, and spreading a green message to both tourists and locals. An initiative to replace existing beach furniture with eco-equivalents is also underway, which on top of being better for the environment also makes the beaches look much more inviting. However, this part of the project will go on for a while as only furniture in actual need of replacement will be tackled to avoid unnecessary waste.
As well as creating a non-smoking section on the beaches, a local potter has been engaged to make clay ashtrays. Irene said: “This not only encourages people to not pollute the beach, it also promotes local pottery and tradition which stimulates the economy and community.” With clear signage on aesthically pleasing wooden boards and limits on noise levels, the whole experience is taken up a notch.
The Nissi Beach Hotel is an important partner in the project and has long been at the forefront of sustainable tourism in Cyprus with promotion of native plant species in their gardens and a multitude of green awards under their belt. Invader plant species are a serious threat to the biodiversity of any ecological system and on both Nissi and Fig Tree beaches efforts are being made to encourage the growing of indigenous plants.
The pilot phase of the project is due to run until the end of 2012, but other beaches in Cyprus have already begun to show interest in being included in the next phase – should it prove worthy of continuing. Early indications are certainly good!
July is Make Holidays Greener month, promoted by the Travel Foundation UK.