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 home” they 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 let’s 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 backdisappointed, 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! “Can’t 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.