Long before the Greek economic crisis was a permanent fixture on the news, the UK-based Minoan Group planned to develop the northeastern area on the island of Crete. The 1.2 billion euro project will create six tourist villages, three golf courses and luxury holiday resorts on land leased by the declining Toplou monastery. As one of the largest tourist development projects in Greece, the resorts will provide around 3,500 jobs when completed, and perhaps keep young people from leaving the country to work elsewhere in Europe.
During this time of recession, I try to convince myself that this development project is one logical solution to strengthen the Greek economy through tourism, and to simultaneously strengthen the European community. However, it is difficult to ignore the negative impact this large luxury tourist destination will have on an island with such a rich history. The largest island of Greece, Crete was the center of the first advanced (Minoan) civilization in Europe. Is it some kind of joke that the development company is called the Minoan Group, as they plan to destroy the sites leftover from this Bronze Age ancient civilization? Today, the island of Crete still has many sites that have not been archaeologically excavated that would provide Europeans with insight into their roots. The island was farmland during antiquity, and the Neolithic and Minoan farms, terraces and fields are still visible on the island of Crete. The golf courses and development would only cover up this landscape.
Furthermore, this project will cause irreversible damage to the Crete environment, which contains some of the world’s most rare plant species, due to the semi-desert climate of the island. This part of Crete is supposed to be protected by the Natura 2000 decision, which designates areas in the EU for conservation. Development is directly in opposition to the Natura 2000, and this tourist village far from the present-day tourism on the island would wreak havoc on the natural beauty of the island.
The Minoan Group has careful answers to all of the concerns of those against this project. They say they are going to keep the golf course with brown grass, and that they will produce their own water. This development project will only cover a percentage of the island, but once completed, I’m sure the resorts will expand. Development in this area is not sustainable because of the lack of water, and already hotels have failed in this location. With this luxury resort on the opposite side of the island from the current tourist destinations, it will only be a matter of a decade or two before the entire island is developed for foreigners. The beginning of advanced European civilization, an environmental hotspot, and the location of well-preserved archaeological sites will be long forgotten underneath the golf courses and “tourist villages.” Despite the need for economic recovery, this is just way too tacky.
Please visit the Minoan Group website for more information, or this petition site where over 10,000 people have signed against this development project. Other sources for this post include this wordpress blog post by HomeboyMediaNews and this article on the Travel Daily News website.