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On Thursday, representatives of TUI Group, the TUI Care Foundation, and the South Aegean Region introduced "The Rhodes Co-Lab," an initiative aimed at making Rhodes the first sustainable tourism destination in the world.
The title of the campaign, which was revealed during a press conference on the island, aims to find practical sustainable solutions and put them into action over the next five years with sustainability experts working together with local tourism businesses and international partners.The ultimate objective is to make the South Aegean Region and Rhodes in particular the global center for sustainable destination model development.
Fritz Joussen, the CEO of the TUI Group, stated that tourism has numerous positive impacts, such as investment, direct spending by tourists, economic prosperity in most destinations, and increased social participation.
“The Co-Lab can serve as a laboratory for sustainable tourism of the future and strengthen and further develop these impacts,” Joussen said, adding that “The Rhodes Co-Lab” can become a role model and create blueprints for other destinations.
TUI's long-term sustainability plan is a part of its overall sustainability strategy. “The Rhodes Co-Lab” supports the sustainability initiatives of the government of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the South Aegean Region.
The island’s “co-lab” – which is the combination of the words “collaboration” and “laboratory” – is managed by a team of sustainability experts who are now working closely with the relevant departments of the Rhodes island administration, the South Aegean Region, TUI Group’s global sustainability team and TUI Care Foundation’s programme managers to exchange ideas.
“The Rhodes Co-Lab” will see a think tank set up on the island to bring together international experts and strengthen and further develop the sustainability transformation of the tourism sector.
Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation, said the entire tourism industry will benefit from the Co-Lab. “Rhodes can become a blueprint for a successful sustainability transformation,” Ellerbeck said, adding that the TUI Care Foundation will be involved in particular with education and training initiatives.
Why choose Rhodes?
The TUI representatives said that because Greece is a top global vacation site, the specific Greek island Rhodes provides the optimum conditions for developing more sustainability in tourism and observing how innovations interact. According to TUI, all the components that make up a holiday are in one place on Rhodes. Hotels, airports, cruises, transfers and mobility, excursions: the complexity of the challenges is visible on Rhodes.
‘A great alliance’
On his part, South Aegean Region Governor George Chatzimarkos referred to a “great alliance” with TUI Group. According to the Greek governor, the partnership with TUI is a vote of confidence to Rhodes, to the islands of the Region of South Aegean but also to Greece. Referring to “The Rhodes Co-Lab” initiative, he said that all stakeholders from the island’s municipalities, the workers’ unions and chambers of commerce are involved in the new project. “It will be a wonderful five-year journey to transform this island to the very first sustainable destination in the world,” Governor Chatzimarkos said.
First projects of “The Rhodes Co-Lab”
The introduction of waste management, water treatment, and recycling is the initial projects that have been planned and are already flourishing. The initial projects' budget has already topped 100 million euros, according to Chatzimarkos. “This is a budget already available through government and regional funding,” he said, adding that he expects future projects to be covered with money from the recovery fund. “The recovery fund’s center of interest is green economy and we believe that all the projects that we have designed are absolutely compatible… We are optimistic that we will be granted the necessary funding from the recovery fund as well,” he said.
The Greek Minister for Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, expressed his gratitude to TUI for selecting Rhodes, and the government will support the South Aegean Region's participation in "The Rhodes Co-Lab" initiatives regarding vital infrastructure projects such as water management, waste management, traffic control. “Our goal is to make Rhodes a model sustainable tourist destination that will be followed by the whole world, as the island’s sustainability will be the number one trend for travelers in the many years to come,” he said.