TUI Group, TUI Care Foundation and the Government of the Region of the Southern Aegean launch the “The Rhodes Co-Lab“.
The aim is to develop Rhodes into an international beacon for the sustainable development of holiday destinations. The Co-Lab will work with the local tourism industry and international partners to find concrete solutions and develop and implement them on Rhodes. In addition, a think tank will be set up on Rhodes to bring together international experts and strengthen and further develop the sustainability transformation of the tourism sector. The Co-Lab supports the sustainability initiatives of the government of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the South Aegean Region and is part of TUI’s long-term Sustainability Agenda. The launch was marked by a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss The Rhodes Co-Lab and its role for the international and Greek tourism industry.
All three partners are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the Paris Agreement and the EU’s goal to be climate neutral by 2050. Holiday destinations play a decisive role in achieving the sustainability goals of tourism. Therefore, concrete first steps must be taken promptly. Small changes on the ground can have a big impact if all partners work together. Together, the partners want to, will and can actively tackle the sustainability transformation – in partnership and in a practical way. This is what they declared at the official launch of the initiative.
“I think Greece is a country that is clearly turning a page. It’s leaving behind a decade of crises, of pain. And I think it’s a country that is really looking to embrace the challenges of the future. It is important to point out that in the United Nations sustainability goals, we do not just talk about environmental ecological sustainability, but also about social and economic sustainability. And we will work very hard to make this project a success,” says Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece.
“Tourism brings many positive impacts – it is a force for good. Without tourism, destinations lack investment and direct spending by travellers. Without tourism, there is hardly any basis for economic prosperity in most destinations. As the largest economic sector in destinations, it also contributes to more social participation. The Co-Lab can serve as a laboratory for sustainable tourism of the future and strengthen and further develop these impacts. It will thus create role models and blueprints for other destinations. We invite everyone in the tourism industry to join forces and contribute ideas and innovations to The Rhodes Co-Lab. In this decade of sustainable transformation, the Co-Lab will show how a holistic approach to greater sustainability can work – for the people who live in destinations, for travellers, for the environment and for the tourism industry,” says Fritz Joussen, CEO of TUI Group.
Co-Lab focuses on collaboration and exchange
The establishment of “The Rhodes Co-Lab” marks the beginning of a sustainability transformation with significance far beyond Greece. It is the first project in the world in which a top destination of this size is tackling its own transformation to more sustainability in such a comprehensive way. The Co-Lab’s work is based on collaboration and exchange – not only with the local tourism industry, but with the industry as a whole.
“There is a fundamental principle that covers all the policies in our Region, the Region of South Aegean: that the future starts today. We faced huge difficulties over the last decade, but we are proud to say that in the islands of our Region we came out stronger, more confident and determined to succeed also in the future. Tackling the challenges ahead it is a complex task and we understand that nobody can do it alone. I believe that this great alliance, with a leader in the global tourism market, such as the TUI Group, goes beyond the narrow limits of our common commitment to this endeavor. It’s a vote of confidence to Rhodes, to the islands of the Region of South Aegean but also to Greece,” says George Chatzimarkos, Governor of the South Aegean Region.
As a top global destination, Rhodes offers the best conditions to test innovations for more sustainability in tourism and to understand their interaction. Here, all the components that make up a holiday are in one place. Hotels, airports, cruises, transfers and mobility, excursions: the complexity of the challenges is visible on Rhodes.
Holistic approach to sustainability: people, environment, economy
TUI Group, TUI Care Foundation and Rhodes have identified the areas in which they want to work with partners over the next five years. The project partners are focusing on sustainable growth for Rhodes that conserves resources and at the same time promotes the participation of local people, for example through new job opportunities. The protection of biodiversity and the environment is to become an even more integral part of destination management. Education and training opportunities will strengthen the participation of local people. The promotion of cultural heritage benefits the island’s society as well as tourism. The ecological footprint of tourism on the island is to be massively reduced through new concepts for energy, water or waste management. In addition, the Co-Lab will advance modern mobility concepts on the island.
The Rhodes Co-Lab is managed by a team of sustainability experts who work closely with the relevant departments of the Rhodes island administration, the Government of the South Aegean, TUI Group’s global sustainability team and TUI Care Foundation’s programme managers to exchange ideas. In a first step, local partnerships will be established for the four workstream areas mentioned above in order to anchor the transformation projects deeply on the ground. Tangible goals will be agreed with these partners. A first meeting with representatives of various tourism companies and representatives of the leading Greek tourism associations took place immediately before the public presentation of the Co-Lab today in Rhodes.
“Tourism has positive effects: better opportunities for education and work, higher environmental standards and more prosperity. We want to strengthen and develop these aspects in this new cooperation. At the same time, it is about reducing emissions and the consumption of natural resources. The Co-Lab is the first platform to make this overall account transparent for a major destination and to test new solutions. The entire tourism industry will benefit from this. Rhodes can become a blueprint for a successful sustainability transformation. The TUI Care Foundation will be involved in particular with education and training initiatives. In doing so, it can build on its previous experience in Greece and 24 other countries,” says Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation.
As a building block of the TUI Sustainability Agenda, The Rhodes Co-Lab will work with the TUI Care Foundation and the Government of the South Aegean region to drive change towards greater sustainability. The TUI Sustainability Agenda is TUI Group’s strategic framework for the company’s contributions to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to reducing the Group’s own environmental footprint, the Agenda’s measures strengthen the positive economic and social impacts of tourism on the ground in the holiday destinations.