Tuesday, 7 October 2014

About repeaters and recreationists

(Storm approaching Hotel Panselinos)

By: Pip

For a long time Lesvos has seemed untouched by time, but the type of tourist coming to the island has started to change. The question is what influence this will have on the island, the inhabitants and the solid core of tourists the so-called repeaters who come here year after year.

I do not know any other Greek island where tourists return so often as to Lesvos. Sometimes they come two to three times a year and some for as long as ten to twenty years. Mostly these are vacationers belonging to the category ethnic tourism. For them visiting the traditional villages and being in contact with the locals is the main goal. I am back homethey call out when they arrive and are being hugged by the owner of the apartment they rented. On Lesvos the owners of the accommodations are very good at ensuring that their customers feel that they belong to the family. They spoil their renters in big ways with home made Spanakopita and fresh products like tomatoes and figs from their own garden. When the guests are leaving they wave them goodbye saying: See you next year.

Lesvos also is visited by many eco tourists. Just like the ethnic tourists they return regularly to the island, because there are many remote areas to be explored. On Lesvos you can walk until you are blue. This summer a couple had to be rescued by the police, after long hours of searching, because they had become lost. They were on a mountaintop high above the Mill Valley, without water. But at least they kept a signal on their telephone.
Birdwatchers also see the island as a real paradise. People who want to see other birds than Flamingos and Black Storks will need more than one telephoto lens and one notebook to write down the discovered birds. Or do they have a digital system nowadays for marking the spotted birds? I have no idea about that.
The Lesvorian flora also is very important. The many Oleanders, the Yellow Rhododendron and the many kinds of Orchids are another attraction. A few months ago, in the mountainous area around Agiasos, a new orchid has been discovered that for sure has to be spotted on a next holiday.

There are also tourists who like to explore the cultural and historical background of Lesvos. There is pottery, monasteries, archaeological digs and museums to explore. There even is a Petrified Forest. But lets be honest. When you visited those sights for a second time and you are not interested in other things, you probably will not return for a third time.

In the typology of different forms of tourism there is another kind of tourist: the recreationalist. This group comes for the sun, sea, beach and sex. This year, with the arrival of a low budget airline company, this type of tourist seems to have increased on Lesvos. The hotel and beach cafe owners are very happy with these holidaymakers. They spend the whole day on a sun bed on the beach or at the pool and consume, which means money. The weekly barbeque has risen in popularity. They seldom go to explore the island and when they go they prefer the bazaar in Turkey to the Petrified Forest. Even though they come back  disappointed, because the markets in Ayvalik and Dikili are not the same as in Bodrum.

That they are not totally satisfied is proven by the many complaints they come up with. I mean, imagine: stepping out of the plane, they suddenly are on an authentic Greek island. Driving to the hotel the transfer may take as long as one and a half hour and the driver only speaks Greek. The studio they booked just has one room. The wifi only works at the reception area, there is not constant hot water, the showerhead is not affixed to the wall and there is no curtain in the shower. There is no towel to dry the dishes and you have to buy the washing up liquid yourself. The mattress is too soft or too hard and the sheets are too short. There are five ants marching over the floor and over the ceiling crawls a spider. The sheep in the neighbouring meadow bellow and their tinkling bells keep you from your sleep. There are sea urchins in the sea and on the beach there are pebbles. Also there are heaps of seaweed on the beach! Cant they take that away? And then there is only one Lidl, faraway in Mytilini and there is no McDonalds on the entire island. I do not know if those people also have complaints about sex. I presume not, because you can have sex everywhere, even on Lesvos.

I guess that the major part of this group will not become repeaters. Even though the recreationalists will keep on coming. It is the largest group of tourism. Even if part of this group comes for one time only, they will come in big numbers. The low budget airline company will increase its number of flights to Mytilini next year, so their group will be even bigger. Then the question will not be 'if' but 'how' the (foreign) entrepreneurs will react and how long it will be before they start building bigger hotels. I am afraid that then a lot of repeaters will not come back. Which will be a pity because it is thanks to them that Lesvos could remain what it was and still is: an authentic Greek island with exceptionally friendly local people and a beautiful nature.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Pip 2014


  1. Timely observations, have already witnessed the same scenario in Parga, Symi, Stoupa and Lefkas.