THE OLIVE ROUTE TO SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN GREECE

Olive oil has great potential in Greek tourism and can be used as a tool for sustainable development.

The presence of the olive tree has left its mark on the landscape and lifestyle of  Mediterranean countries. This mythical and sacred tree is rooted in customs and is an inseparable part of a civilization that has come to be called the olive civilization.

The beginning of European civilization is linked to this universal symbol of peace and dialogue. Conscious of its importance, the Council of Europe promotes the Olive Routes, which are itineraries of landscape, intercultural and dialogue discovery related to the history of this tree and its benefits in olive oil producing regions.

If we elaborate on the foundations of Europe, we begin inexorably with Greece, as it was the first advanced civilization of Europe. And if we start in the Hellenic country, we do it naturally by through its olive tree routes. Nowadays when competition has established new rules in the global tourism market, the challenge for Greece is to become a successful player in the context of sustainable tourism development. Olive groves have an emerging demand as special interest for tourism activities, such as agriculture and healthy food, and to provide Greek destinations with the opportunity to distinguish themselves over others and to improve their tourism quality.

Gastronomic tourism and local food products, especially olive oil, have great potential for boosting Greek tourist destinations. In addition, it is one more element in the fight against an economic and social crisis that has had and still has a devastating effect on Greece.

But what is sustainable tourism? In order for tourism to be sustainable, it must mean to respect local ecosystems and to allow optimal use of environmental resources, cultural heritage and traditional values for host communities, while fostering intercultural understanding and tolerance.

Small typical farm in the Peloponnese (Greece), surrounded by olive groves.
Small typical farm in the Peloponnese (Greece), surrounded by olive groves.

That is why olive oil can become a tool to ensure sustainable tourism beyond the cliches of sun and sand that have  been dominant since the sixties in the countries of the Mediterranean basin. It is necessary to underline the above, and also the sustainable tourism related to the gastronomy  which offers a great opportunity to obtain these goals.

EVOO as a tourist attaction

To use EVOO as a fundamental pillar and an attraction for this type of tourism, it has to be connected to local gastronomy. To this phenomenon some have called it cuisine of proximity. This is an essential element to explore new cultures through its flavor.

If activities related to olive oil such as harvesting or grinding are effectively promoted, Greek destinations have the opportunity to become more attractive even out of season and, most importantly, add value to the tourist experience.

Activities related to oleotourism cover the various stages, from the care of the olive tree until the juice of the olive leaves the mill. The olive oil routes contemplate the production process, the quality care and the cultural importance of the olive oil, they finish with sample tasting so as to distinguish the main types of EVOO.

The southern part of the Peloponnese and Crete are the most important parts of oil production in Greece and in particular regions such as Messinia, Laconia, Chania and Lasithi.

Greece devotes 60 percent of its cultivated land to olive-growing, and despite its small size, ranks third in world production of olives. It is logical that it is one of the countries that can be allowed to use the EVOO as a tourist claim, something that is already frequent in neighboring countries such as Italy and Spain.

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