Sustainable journey is all the craze. For most individuals, the concept of sustainable journey conjures up photographs of yoga retreats and tenting in forests, ingesting nothing however water and consuming a “clear” weight loss program. And that is the issue with the notion of travelling sustainably. All of us have to be extra cautious about how we use the world’s priceless assets, however for a lot of, sacrificing the creature comforts we’ve grow to be used to is a step too far.
It’s this concept that underpins the work of Angelos Michalopoulos and his household on the unspoilt Greek island of Ios (often known as Io or Nio).
One of many Cyclades group of islands within the Aegean Sea, about an hour away by ferry from Santorini, Ios has managed to flee the overdevelopment that’s swamped different Greek islands corresponding to Santorini, Mykonos and Corfu.
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In the direction of the top of the vacationer season in September, I visited the household’s primary undertaking on the island, referred to as Calilo, which is a resort situated a couple of 40-minute drive from the primary port. Even at the moment of yr, the resort was internet hosting its first marriage ceremony, and there was a notable buzz as visitors steadily arrived.
Michalopoulos made his cash on Wall Avenue. Whereas he retains his enterprise comparatively secret, he tells me his agency trades shares, bonds and commodities, utilizing algorithms. “I generate profits as a result of individuals don’t perceive themselves,” he says. “Folks place an excessive amount of emphasis on rewards and never sufficient on the dangers each in enterprise and life.” The Calilo Group is planning to speculate a complete of €200m on the island.
The initiatives are designed across the precept of defending the atmosphere and nurturing the local people. However they’re additionally financially sustainable, and that, as Michalopoulos tells me, is simply as essential.
Turbulent instances within the Greek islands
I met Michalopoulos at his residence on Ios at a very poignant time for Greece and its financial system. Within the weeks earlier than I arrived, the nation had been devastated first by wildfires after which by floods, distorting lives and livelihoods.
Greece was solely simply beginning to recuperate from its 2010 debt disaster when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Its tourism business, which accounts for round 1 / 4 of GDP, was devastated by two years of probably the most extreme lockdowns within the Western world, handicapping an already fragile financial system.
Fortunately, customers emerged from the pandemic with cash to spend and plenty of rushed to Greece. Nonetheless, a altering local weather is now threatening to throw the nation into extra turmoil if excessive climate pushes vacationers away.
There’s a college of thought that the one solution to cease the local weather from altering additional is to cease driving, flying, consuming meat, shopping for smartphones and having kids. That’s not a future many individuals would select if requested and it exhibits. Regardless of all of the local weather warnings, we’re nonetheless driving, flying and consuming greater than ever.
So, the Calilo Group led by Michalopoulos has taken a special method. They’ve acquired round a 3rd of the land on Ios and have made a authorized dedication to limit improvement to lower than 1% of the land. This can be a long-term dedication and it’s designed to be sustainable – each within the environmental and enterprise sense, the group says.
Calilo is a household enterprise with two generations operating the enterprise. As Michalopoulos explains to me, the purpose was at all times to get the subsequent era at an early stage and excited about the longer term.
This brings me to the enterprise aspect of the operation. “There are 3 ways” to method sustainability in enterprise, says Michalopoulos. There’s “zero improvement”, which implies shopping for the land and doing nothing, which could appear interesting, however is unsustainable in the long term. “If we do nothing, then another person will are available and develop the land,” Michalopoulos explains.
The opposite two approaches are “overdevelopment” (see the opposite Greek islands Santorini, Mykonos and Corfu) and the method Calilo has adopted, which is smart and financially sustainable improvement on a small scale.
“We stay in a world the place every thing must be binary. Why ought to every thing both be capitalism or environmentalism?,” asks Michalopoulos. There’s a center floor and it’s one which’s usually missed. “Success results in overdevelopment, which ends up in destruction,” he says. “If you happen to do nothing, you might be solely attempting to flee the issue.”
And there’s a much bigger difficulty with these locations. Happening vacation in an overdeveloped location isn’t stress-free. “What do we wish on vacation?” he asks. We would like “extra open area, a carefree expertise and no worries” – one thing arduous to search out in a spot like Santorini.
A resort for wellbeing and escape
The resorts Calilo has created on Ios are designed to “create stunning feelings in individuals”. The structure stresses “freedom and innocence”, whereas the areas are designed to present visitors as a lot area as doable.
My room exemplified this philosophy. All rooms have their very own enclosed exterior space for privateness. Every room has its personal pool and mine had direct entry to the ocean – excellent for a pre-breakfast swim within the bay. All of the rooms look out throughout the bay, taking within the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that bathe the horizon in a heat glow each morning and night.
Whereas there are plans to develop the resort, the variety of rooms goes to be capped. “If we had 1,000 rooms slightly than 70, you’ll have extra noise, extra negativity,” Michalopoulos explains.
Delicate improvement is one other arm of the Calilo mentality. Development on the primary resort started in 2004 however solely opened its doorways in 2019. It was constructed utilizing as a lot reclaimed stone as doable from the island, and different reusable supplies, whereas historic olive bushes have been saved from destruction elsewhere in Greece to assist with the landscaping.
The well-being of workers is simply as essential to the house owners as the rest – one thing that exhibits within the stage of service.
As a part of the ambition to maintain the island’s financial system buzzing year-round, slightly than the famine or feast of the vacation season, the household agency is constructing a college of hospitality. It’s “essential the island doesn’t die within the winter after which solely wakes up in the summertime”.
Due to its location and format, Calilo feels a world away from, properly, the world. It’s simple to get misplaced in your individual paradise, watching the sundown on the seaside with a cocktail, or spending the afternoon lounging by the pool bar.
I spent my first day doing simply that, tasting Greek delights, washed down with the occasional margarita. Within the night, I used to be tempted out to the season-closing social gathering of the Pathos Membership & Restaurant, the clifftop nightclub owned by the Calilo Group, which has “the perfect sundown on the island”. I couldn’t disagree with that assertion.
The subsequent day was spent exploring the island of Ios, together with visiting the tomb of Homer, the Greek poet credited because the writer of the Iliad and Odyssey. On a clifftop surrounded by miles and miles of open sea and mountains, the tomb was an oasis of calm, and well worth the hike to go to it within the noon warmth.
After my journey across the island, I discovered myself in Calilo’s spa, a brand-new part of the resort comprising a two-storey health club and spa overlooking the remainder of the resort and the bay past. Then it was again to the pool bar, to get pleasure from extra Greek delights and some drinks whereas watching the sundown in yet one more spectacular show of sunshine and color.
My journey to Ios was a brief one, nevertheless it has left an enduring impression on me as to what the phrases “vacation” and “sustainability” ought to actually imply. Calilo exhibits why we will’t ignore one if we wish to benefit from the different.
Rupert was a visitor of Calilo. From £620, together with breakfast, calilo.com
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