Switching to sustainable farming and organic production can add value to the tourist industry, says Alkinoos Nikolaides, director of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute in Chania.

At the moment, all of this comes together in one resort in Greece: Costa Navarino. Located in Messinia, this premier travel destination brings together environmental responsibility and tourism. The resort boasts 21 dining venues, two golf courses, several hotels and residences, a sports complex, a dunes course and an environmental observatory among other features.

Costa Navarino grew out of the vision and personal investment of Vassilis C. Constantakopoulos, a shipping magnate originally from Messinia. His vision included an environmentally friendly approach to nearly all facets of operation and an effort to promote the local culture and population, said Marina Papatsoni, marketing director of Costa Navarino.

“We all have a vision to put this region as a top destination worldwide,” Papatsoni said. “Sharing this vision with the local population is great because we are all part of it, and we all have our share in the success of Costa Navarino.”

Costa Navarino promotes eco-solutions throughout its operations, including energy efficient buildings, self-sustainable water management, landscape preservation during construction and an extensive recycling program for all resort-generated waste. Costa Navarino also supports the local population by introducing guests to traditional cuisine and regional attractions. For example, most of the food served at the dining venues comes from sustainable farms in the region.

Navarino Icons displayed at the Athens International Airport.

Before the summer of 2011, Costa Navarino launched the Navarino Icons campaign to promote the cultural and agricultural products of Messinia world-wide. The Navarino Icons, currently available at the airport in Athens, feature hand-made crafts by local artisans and organic food products from sustainable farms. In general, investing in organic foods and farming is an obvious step toward promoting strong export goods, Papatsoni said.

“Greece has an opportunity and maybe this crisis is an opportunity for Greece to go back to some of its traditional practices that we used to do and know how to do,” she said. “There is also a potential market for farmers in Messinia, so for us [organic farming] is important because our overall hope is to help the development of the entire area, and educate the farmers to move toward organic farming.”

To promote agricultural education, Costa Navarino opened the Navarino Natura Hall over the summer. Initially designated as a platform to publish research from the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), which researches the level of climate change in the Mediterranean region, the project soon developed into an educational center to familiarize the guests of Costa Navarino and the local population with Messinia’s ecosystem. Educating people on climate change and environmentally friendly practices is important in gaining respect for the environment, Papatsoni said.

“The whole idea is for the guests and the locals to learn about the environmental diversity in the area,” Papatsoni said. “To respect, love and protect it.”

Within two months of operation more than 10,000 people visited Natura Hall, she said.

Costa Navarino is just one example of the different ways Greece can take advantage of its natural resources. Part of the effort requires a change in mentality and proper education on how to develop stronger businesses and consumer relationships, Papatsoni said. She said “quality should be the axiom of Greek tourism,” and remains optimistic about Greece’s future in tourism and overall recovery.

“I believe there are a lot of investors and business people in the industry that understand the potential Greece has and they are trying hard to take the necessary steps to do things better.”

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