Annual Report 2017 Annual Report 2017

Cretan heroes

Often you have to start small if you want to encourage a rethink about sustainable economics. About as small as a Cretan olive – planted and tended by farmers with the courage to strike out along new paths.

»I know exactly what my role in this life is. I can’t stay indoors. I belong outside among my olives.«

Dimitris Loumpakis, Olive farmer on the island of Crete, Greece

Dimitris Loumpakis is a Cretan farmer who manages his land sustainably. He recently joined a pilot project initiated by the TUI Care Foundation. The aim is to place wine and olive growing in Crete on a sustainable footing and to forge enduring links with tourism. We accompanied Dimitris and Sotiris Bampagiouris from Local Food Experts, who are implementing the island project for TUI, into the olive groves. In the Valley of Sarchos, 500 metres above sea level, we visited the Chonos Olive Grove, a chance to experience with all our senses what this cultural and economic asset means to the people who are committed to sustainable olive growing. Because for this mission you do need commitment: sustainable management is particularly labour-intensive. Out of respect for the soil and the surrounding vegetation, it dispenses with heavy machinery of the kind used in conventional agriculture.

Dimitris wouldn’t want it any other way. He keeps stopping in his tracks, handing us an organic lemon so we can appreciate the smell, gathering wild oregano and picking up walnuts from the edge of the path so we can crack them together. There is far more to this than the seductive scent of unfamiliar wild herbs and a scenery that strikes the visitor as idyllic: it is evidence of the equilibrium created by healthy local biodiversity. Here, the war against harmful pests is waged by drawing on the natural ability of diverse species to protect themselves. Those same mechanisms shield the parched earth, which struggles increasingly to cope with the long periods of drought that alternate with short, sharp downfalls of rain.

Tradition for the future

Nearly 95 per cent of the olives grown on Crete are processed into oil. Tasting that olive oil is an introduction to the many facets of this Greek island. The olive trees, with their typical gnarled trunks, are everywhere – a distinctive feature of this landscape.

Books will tell you that the oldest remains of cultivated olives were found on Crete. Given so much history and such close ties with this little drupaceous fruit which hangs so un­assumingly from the branches, it is easy to understand why the farmers are proud. A lot of cultural heritage and identity comes with the olive groves and the products grown there. Almost 44 per cent of the agricultural surface area of Crete belongs to the olive trees. The island is one of the biggest exporters of olive oil in Europe.

The diversity found in the Chonos Olive Grove is representative of Crete as a whole. The largest of the Greek islands, with its 1,700 different species of flora, is one of Europe’s most biodiverse regions. And no less that 10 per cent of this versatile vegetation is endemic, which means that these plants do not grow anywhere other than in Crete.

The facts are impressive, but they come with a caveat: as things stand today, only a small proportion of the olive groves are farmed organically and sustainably. That is something this project backed by the TUI Care Foundation would like to change. Olive, wine and cereal growers can work together under the umbrella of this grass-roots initiative, which aims to put local producers like Dimitris in touch with partners in the processing sector and sustainable tourism. In the longer term, the objective is to develop Crete as a destination that sets a fine example for sustainable food production.

3 questions to

Sotiris Bampagiouris CEO of Local Food Experts and responsible for their work in Crete, Greece

»Growing tourism endangers the Greek spirit. We make products to reinforce that spirit, so visitors can enjoy the authentic experience.«

»Growing tourism endangers the Greek spirit. We make products to reinforce that spirit, so visitors can enjoy the authentic experience.«

NameSotiris Bampagiouris PositionCEO of Local Food Experts responsible fortheir work in Crete, Greece

reek cooking and Greek hospitality are proverbial – one reason Greece is so popular as a destination. Those values are closely linked to the good health of the soil, the resilience of the natural environment and the ancient knowledge of the people who work in food production. These valuable features could be swamped by the growing number of tourists who come to Greece, unless there is a focus on creating products that reinforce that Greek spirit and promote the authentic experience. That is where we come in. Local Food Experts are a social enterprise, and we have been working since 2013 to forge stronger links between the three pillars of the economy: local food production, the processing of the food, and sustainable tourism. The aim is to develop a relatively independent, sustainable local food production sector. With the help of strong partners, its products would also be available to consumers outside Crete and to tourists and hotels. There is a lot of interest in our initiative. We can sense that a real rethink is underway locally.

Together with the TUI Care Foundation and Futouris e. V., you are implementing the project “Crete – First Steps Towards a Sustainable Food Destination”. What is that about?

Olive oil and wine are essential components of Cretan cooking and culture. But so many farmers have given up their farms because their profits have slumped, young people are leaving the villages because their parents’ farms do not promise them a future, and the land has been badly damaged by intensive farming methods and the use of pesticides, water shortages and a decline in biodiversity.
Because of those problems, the project is looking to promote sustainable agriculture. The idea is to secure a long-term future for small family farms, to protect and strengthen the producers. We teach them the knowledge they need for sustainable, ethical food production. Tourism is the biggest economic force in Crete after agriculture, so we want to build on that by offering our visitors a local experience, making sure that tourists can renew their acquaintance with original Cretan products. Tour operators and hotels are important to us because they can spread the word. After all, they are the ones in direct contact with the holidaymakers.

What are your hopes for this initiative?

That we grow – of course! The more active participants we have among the farmers, the greater the supply of sustainable produce, and that will also mean much better quality. We want to reach out to tourists with this sustainable local produce, so that in the long run we can combine tourism in Crete with the principles of sustainability. What I want for our local economy is to see it grow more robust, so that living and working conditions outside the urban areas improve and not so many young people drift away to the towns.

Sotiris Bampagiouris studied ecological agriculture and local food production systems in Greece, France and the United States. For more than 22 years he has campaigned in Crete and EU countries for a more local, self-sustained approach to growing food in the agricultural economy. He is a co-founder of the social enterprise Local Food Experts sce in Crete, which ranks Futouris e. V. and the TUI Care Foundation among its partners.


Hidden riches

For Sotiris Bampagiouris from Local Food Experts, how agriculture responds to nature has an important preservation aspect. “Organic farming is not necessarily the same thing as sustainable agriculture. But that is what we are trying to encourage and achieve with our projects: sustainable management based on organic guidelines, using but at the same time protecting what is there,” Sotiris explains. He studied organic farming himself and has been campaigning for these principles on Crete for 22 years. “Everything from producing your own fertiliser to enlisting local species of flora and fauna to protect crops from insects and to preserve the soil.” That, says Sotiris, means respecting and remembering the traditional methods of olive cul­tivation.

»They say an olive tree never dies. They are intelligent trees and true artists when it comes to adapting.«

A day spent in the olive groves is a day full of Cretan history. An unlikely cluster of gnarled trees turns out to be living evidence of the past. These stately specimens are over 2,000 years old. They once witnessed Minoan culture, one of the most ancient civilisations in Europe. The rootstocks of these wild olive trees literally spring from a former era. Grafted onto them, in testimony to a more recent age, are cuttings from more productive strains. This is a propagation technique commonly used for roses and fruit.

Here on Crete, we might see it as a symbi­osis between humans and nature. But that symbiotic relationship has not always been driven by knowledge and respect.

Sotiris and Dimitris tell us that in the 1990s, the government sent advisors who urged the farmers to replace their olive trees, many of them centuries old, with newer varieties that would yield a greater harvest. The philosophy at the time was to adopt intensive methods involving nitrogen fertilisers, milling machines and abundant irrigation. Many farmers now regret following that advice. The sustainable approach to olive cultivation taught by Local Food Experts at its agricultural seminars is designed to prevent such mistakes in the future. The association is treading new ground in Crete, and its work is intended to serve as a model: if the community wants to look ahead and to combine tourism with more sustainable economics, the foundations must be laid among the farmers. They will spread their insights, becoming the advocates of a conscious rapprochement that values traditional methods and cultivars. And they will create the places where visitors will have an opportunity to encounter authentic local cooking and culture.

Bonding over a good lunch

In the village of Kroussonas, we meet Manolis Kokologiannakis, a friend of Dimitris and Sotiris. He runs a restaurant here that has been in his family for several generations. But Manolis began his career as a chef in the hospitality sector. He was once in charge of producing well in excess of 100,000 meals a year at one of the big hotels on the Cretan coast. Now he manages the traditional family tavern.

The ingredients for the salad are from his own field, which is farmed in the traditional organic way. The pork is from a pig left to grow at its own pace, and the white wine was made from the vines that spring up all over the village. The full-bodied olive oil shimmering gold-yellow-green is the theme that holds the leisurely lunch together. Hot or cold, its effects are different with every dish, but each time it puts a perfect finishing touch to the taste experience. And so the traditional tasting ritual becomes an olive oil highlight. If only more visitors to Crete found their way to local restaurants like the one Manolis runs. Not just for their own sheer enjoyment, but also so that talented people with good ideas are given a chance to put those ideas into practice. That will create new prospects in a rural region that is suffering from an exodus of young people.

Local initiatives like this one draw strength from Crete’s development as a model des­tination for sustainable holiday eating, which is being driven forward by the TUI Care Foundation in conjunction with Futouris and the social enterprise Local Food Experts. If people living in the destinations are to benefit in the long term from the feedback effects of projects like this one, the links between the local economy and tourism must start with the little things.

Tourism is the biggest factor in many economies. The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras supports the initiatives taken in his country by TUI and the TUI Care Foundation.
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3 questions to

Thomas Ellerbeck Member of the TUI Group Executive Committee, responsible for Public Policy and International Relations, Group Communications, Environment and Sustainability, and Foundations. He is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation.

»Tourism is the most effective form of international development cooperation.«

»Tourism is the most effective form of international development cooperation.«

NameThomas Ellerbeck PositionMember of the TUI Group Executive Committee responsible forPublic Policy and Inter­national Relations, Group Communi­cations, Environ­ment and Sustain­ability, and Found­ations. He is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foun­dation.

How important is tourism for politics and governments in destination countries?

TUI operates in more than 100 destinations around the world. We invest in hotel and club facilities, we ensure training and employment. There are so many topics to discuss with governments, especially in relation to our new projects, hotels, arranging more flights, but even general issues like how to further develop or reposition the tourism sector in the country. One thing is certain: in many countries, tourism is the biggest economic factor, and that makes it an engine driving future development. Our growth strategy “TUI 2022” is attracting a lot of attention from governments in the ASEAN region. When Singapore became the registry port for Mein Schiff 1, Singapore’s President Toni Tan took time out for a conversation. When you base a ship in a city, it brings in more flights, thousands of new passengers for airlines and airports, but also additional bednights for hotels before and after the cruise. In Greece, we talked to Prime Minister Tsipras about effective ways to extend the season in the country, and about helping more local products find their way into the hotels. So that means local supply chains and more networking between the tourism, farming and wine-growing industries.

Are destinations also shifting more focus towards sustainability?

There are close links between the economic success of the tourism sector on the one hand and social and environmental sustainability on the other. After all, visitors want to find the environment intact. That includes standards of environment and animal protection, and especially fair social standards for the people who live in the destination. We are committed to healthy regions in the social, economic and ecological sense. Access to better education and training plays a key role in this. In 2015 we founded the TUI Care Foundation, and already it is implementing projects in over 25 countries. It works together with NGOs, governments and local companies. At our TUI Academy in the Dominican Republic, young people are training for the classical hospitality occupations. After that they will spend at least a year working in partner hotels to gain some practical experience. And then they will be available for the local employment market. We now have TUI Academies like this in six countries. In fact, we have just decided to take the TUI Care Foundation and the TUI Academy to Vietnam.

How do you achieve your aims in the light of the current geopolitical challenges?

Assessing the political conditions for our operations is a core task for the TUI Group offices in Brussels and Berlin. Much of that concerns national governments, but many aspects also have a European dimension. Not least the consequences of Brexit. In the case of the destination countries, we concentrate on boosting the positive social impact of tourism. In Spain and Greece, the question of youth unemployment is still high on the agenda. What can we do in the tourism sector to improve the situation sustainably? In many countries of Southern Europe, tourism not only preserved jobs during the recession, it also created many new ones. In emerging economies and developing countries, the sector plays an even more significant role. There is a substantial prosperity transfer at play here – every year holidaymakers bring more than half a trillion dollars into low- and middle-income countries. That trend is growing fast. As a result, the tourism spend outstrips development aid several times over. Tourism is probably the most effective and efficient form of international development cooperation. Of course, we can’t change world politics, but as the world’s leading tourism Group we can take a stance and act as a reliable, committed partner for our destination countries in matters of education, training, social standards and the environment.

What shape does your commitment take?

Leadership means assuming responsibility, and that is what we are doing. By 2020 we aim to increase the number of sustainable holiday trips to ten million. We will achieve that by consistently implementing our sustain­ability strategy. We want to reinforce the positive effects while minimising any negative effects. That is also the objective of the work done by the Foundation: by 2020 TUI aims to raise ten million euros a year for our social commitment – most of that money flows into the work done by the TUI Care Foundation, supporting projects that offer new pro­spects for the future of young people, strengthen value creation locally, and protect the natural environment in our destinations. An expert advisory committee evaluates the project proposals, and an independent board of trustees decides how to allocate the resources. We want transparency, because that is how we build trust.


Good question

Two studies show how sustainability has reached the mainstream of society.

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TUI Care Foundation

We champion healthy destinations around the globe.

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