Q&A with Frangiskos Karelas,
Owner & Founder of Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm & Guesthouse
Eumelia is a forerunner of eco-friendly holiday destinations in Greece and winner of "Tripadvisor's Greenleaders Platinum Award".
At this gem of a place, there is so much to do, see, experience, learn and be inspired by.
Eumelia is based on a very clear philosophy, that is to create sustainable development projects that would place nature and human relationships at the center stage. Located in the prefecture of Laconia in the Peloponnese near the village of Gouves, they welcome visitors throughout the year.
Eco-Hotel, Ecotourism, Agrotourism
Organic Farm & Organic Products
Environmental & Sustainability Education
Seminars & Workshops
Q1: With so many concepts being thrown around in the industry, how did you come about with the philosophy based on the Homeodynamic culture? It seems a very zen-like philosophy. Were you inspired by your travels abroad and if so where or by who?
Answer: I was inspired from the holistic approach to looking at the "whole" in homeopathy used on humans and animals. I wanted to unite, humans, nature, animals, activities, education, exercise, looking within oneself & nourishment.
Q2: What were some of the challenges faced in getting such a development off the ground.
Answer: There were many challenges, myself to begin with. It was a learning path for me, to remain true to myself, to go deeper into myself and learn about my wants and beliefs. Other more evident, bureaucracy, lack of understanding and commitment in the initial stages by architects, engineers. The local community is conservative and fears the new.
Q3: Were there in place suppliers and materials locally to enable you to implement these 'sustainable' policies and building materials that were used?
Answer: At the time we began, there was little knowledge and initiative into building sustainably. So we tried to work with as many local building crews and material. About 70 percent of the material like bricks, roof tiles and other building material were local, about 20 percent national (insulation and color plaster) and 10 percent international (like organic & natural colors)
Q4: Are you able to remain competitive by employing these policies.
Answer: Competitive is a strange word and concept, we are present, we are pioneers and believe that we have opened paths for others in order to begin their journey into sustainable, holistic approach to tourism with lower initial costs than we had.
Q5: Is sustainable tourism growing in these times (in relation to the economic crisis)? Perhaps growing in awareness as people are seeking a more meaningful experience. Such as the yoga retreats and getting in touch with nature. Also to de-stress.
Answer: We need to invest in ourselves and our relationships with others including nature. In periods were there is no crisis people invested in material things and experiences that were a trend. We must now learn about ourselves as a step into creating an equilibrium between humans but also in our relationship with nature.
Q6: From past experience do you feel that you need to educate the market as part of your marketing strategy, or is there an existing market that is yearning for these type of holidays, and have a lack of choices?
Answer: Yes as pioneers we have to spend a part of our energy into educating our visitors. That has a higher cost but also it is very rewarding. We share our daily activities, environmental technologies that we use as well as our organic farming methods. People are starting to realize that their job and status does not define who they are, but their spirit does, so they begin to invest in themselves.
Q7: On the whole, the travel industry in Greece is doing well esp. on the popular islands. How has it been for tourism on the mainland and what trends are you foreseeing.
Answer: When we began, our strongest seasons were spring and fall as many of farming activities take place, the last two years the summer season has showed great strength and partly that is because people do not associate their summer vacation with only sun and sea but with mountains, inland as well as activities that help them grow.
Q8: Can Responsible Tourism play a bigger role and impact in the future of our travel industry?
Answer: I wish to avoid catchy phrase in general and trends. These concepts should not be associated with trends and greenwashing your business but with deep feelings and need to do better, to protect our resources, the environment and strive to improve.
Q9: Is there support at national level to promote Eco tourism/ Agrotourism?
Answer: Words, words, words, no action, I do not expect anything from centralized systems anymore. I believe in other people and their business efforts to unite, find common ground and work closely to minimize costs, impact on resources and nature. There is a new effort which we are leading we have created the Greek Ecotourism Society (greekecotourism.org) where hotels, outdoor activity companies as well as environmental protection organizations will receive tools and will be certified after they have been evaluated that the conserve resources and aim to protect nature.
Q10: What are some of your latest implementations to your property and what is in store in the near future.
Answer: At the moment we are planning and wish to build a natural pond, self cleaning with no chemicals but only plants along with an outside kitchen area for events and cooking classes. also in the spring we will be producing electricity with solar panels. Along with solar water heating, geothermal cooling and heating as well as a natural waste management system that we already use we are aiming at 100 percent self sufficiency.
Q11: What was your proudest moment since the beginning of Eumelia?
Answer: There are so many and that is what keeps me going. First, the moments when I hear from children about the effect Eumelia has had on their lives and second, when we were doing our crowdfunding campaign for the natural pond, a couple that had visited us wrote us to send their support. They told me that after their visit to Eumelia, they found the courage to change the direction in their life and now they are in Africa working for the UN helping other people.
Q12: What is your hope and advice to other business owners who want to embark in implementing similar practices?
Answer: Strive to be a leader in your area, shine as an example, protect nature, resources, your business is just the excuse to be a constructive part of society. Believe in yourselves do not listen words of fear, try to be yourself.
End of Q&A (Nov 2015)
Thanks Frangiskos, for taking the time to enlighten me about your journey and heartfelt experiences.
You really walk your talk.
A place to visit for all seasons.
A place to relax, rejuvenate, inspire, learn, self-improve, grow and have fun.
Eumelia's Green Sustainability Policy & Practices
*uses organic farming practices
*recycle grey and black water reuse it to water gardens & trees as well as manure for trees.
*compost weeds, dry plants, pruning’s, leafs and vegetable leftovers from the kitchen in order to create new earth for our vegetable gardens.
*geothermal heat pump thus minimizing energy consumption for heating and cooling
*paint used inside the buildings is made from natural material and essential oils.
*color plaster used inside and outside the buildings are made from natural minerals
*LED lights and low consumption light bulbs
*encourage guests to participate in our environmental initiative by voluntarily choosing to have their towels and bed sheets changed less often. The bed linen & towel policy is to change them every 3 days unless requested otherwise
*line dry linen & towels in order to save energy
*do not use plastic cups, plastic plates or plastic eating utensils
*recycle at the source, guests, separate organic, recycling material and other waste in room
*feed leftover cooked food to pets
*feed leftover uncooked vegetables to chickens
*avoid buying plastic products, we reuse, upcycle and buy from sustainable sources
*buy local food and products to support local farmers
*support local businesses
*work with local farmers, handcrafters & artisans as well as workshop and seminar instructors
*involve sustainability efforts and encourage the spirit of volunteering
*minimize outside resources and costs in order to be self sufficient