NATIONAL NETWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
"TOURISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT"
In the last few decades tourism has taken various forms and its development has reached significant levels worldwide, a fact which renders tourism a dominant economic power. In the western market economies significant technological developments, the rise of the standard of living and the increase of free time have contributed significantly to increasing demands for holiday and recreation services. The importance of the tourism sector in the Greek economy is corroborated by the fact that it contributes to the country's GNP by 18% and to total employment by 17%. The World Tourism Organization estimates that tourist inflows in Greece will increase by approximately 4.1% annually in the following ten years.
Tourism affects destination places in positive as well as in negative ways, in terms of their economies, environment and social and cultural fabric. For example, tourism creates jobs, increases foreign exchange flows, invigorates other sectors of the economy, increases public revenues, improves infrastructure, contributes to the restoration of monuments and historical buildings, and fosters the protection of cultural heritage and the environment. These positive effects render tourism a means of economic and social development (Andriotis 2005, Vaughan, Andriotis & Wilkes 2000, Archer & Cooper 1998, Papadopoulos 1985). However, tourism has been accused of systematizing and commercializing human relations (mass tourism), thus corrupting social institutions, degrading the environment by way of urban sprawl and the irrational use of natural resources (water, energy, etc.). In addition, a large portion of the revenues generated by tourism flow outside the local communities, even the country. This economic bleeding is the result of increased demands in foreign products and labor.
The above mentioned negative effects of mass tourism have prompted a number of sector players to look for alternative forms of tourism development. Currently, a lot of private investors and public stakeholders are interested in soft forms of tourism where the main focus as regards the destination place is not economic but protection of the natural and build environment, respect for culture and meeting the needs of the local inhabitants in terms of infrastructure. This soft approach to tourism development, often referred to as "alternative forms of tourism", aims to promote a kind of active tourism that mitigates the effects of mass tourism and fosters sustainability.
The conceptualization of services that make up the soft forms of tourism was necessitated by fast emerging demands in the sector to create opportunities for tourists to engage in sports, healthy living, nature walking, cultural activities, education, adventure, a.o. It seems that the alternative forms of tourism act as an interface between the tourism sector and other sectors of the economy, mainly with the primary sector, i.e. agriculture, stock-breeding and handicraft. In addition, this form of tourism mitigates the bleeding of funds away from the local economies (for the purchase of imported commodities) and diminishes dependence on foreign tour operators and labor force. In short, the alternative forms of tourism create strong economic bonds with local and regional stakeholders. Small scale investments in alternative forms of tourism by local players help maintain the control of tourism development locally, with benefits rising steadily. At the same time, small scale investments in the physical environment can be integrated more easily with the existing socio-cultural and economic environment of the destination place and thus promote more effectively the sustainability of that place.
Efforts to develop soft tourism activities that are consistent with the environment (social, cultural, physical and built) should be supplemented with raising public awareness at a local and national level. This is feasible through education involving the entire population, particularly of the children and teenagers during their primary and secondary levels of education. These periods of life are formative of character which determines a person's attitude on many issues, including tourism, regardless of the capacity of the person (tourist, investor, local inhabitant, a.o.) Unfortunately, there are no provisions for the cultivation of the proper touristic attitude in our national curriculum. With this in mind the Center for Environmental Education (CEE) of Archanes decided to make an intervention in this direction with the organization of a National Thematic Network for Environmental Education, the "TOURISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT".
The schools to participate in this Network, especially the project coordinators, will have the opportunity to:
- visit the Internet site of the Network and read about other participations, useful information about Tourism, as well as browse at the web pages of cooperating schools,
- request educational materials on the subject of Tourism,
- participate in meetings / seminars organized by the CEE of Archanes,
- participate in the publications of CEEA with the abstracts of their projects (these projects are the responsibility of the environmental teams of the schools),
- publicize their actions in the Mass Media with expenses paid by the CEE of Archanes.
Depending on project focus and actions planned, the student groups to implement relevant projects will be able to:
1. familiarize themselves with the model of mass tourism and learn about its consequences in the natural, built and cultural environment as well as on the social fabric,
2. learn about alternative forms of tourism and the areas which favor most the relevant kinds of tourism development (ecotourism, agrotourism, cultural tourism, a.o.)
3. get the feel of alternative forms of tourism during scheduled visits to relevant establishments and the country side (units of agrotourism, traditional villages, protected areas, etc.)
4. look into our national legislation and identify the provisions of law pertaining to sustainable development.
5. understand that the improved environment (natural, built, cultural) is a resource and a precondition for the sustainable development of tourism in their area
6. formulate proposals regarding tourism development in their area in the context of sustainability,
7. take up actions for the protection and promotion of the natural environment in their area of residence,
8. cooperate with other schools and exchange information, views and educational materials.
Indicative Project Titles