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More Blue Flags for Greek beaches

Greek island holidaymakers can look forward to even cleaner beaches this year.

The country has increased the number of holiday beaches gaining Blue Flag quality status.

It has added 33 beaches and three marinas to its award-winning resorts to take this year's total to 519.

It ranks Greece second in the world, after Spain, for Blue Flag awards from the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (EEPF).

A total of 15 Greek marinas and a sustainable tourism boat also bagged a quality Blue Flag award for 2018.

Last year Greece picked up Blue Flags for 486 Greek beaches and 12 marinas.

The Blue Flag is a much-prized eco-label awarded by the independent, non-profit organisation Foundation for Environmental Education based in Copenhagen.

The Blue Flag is awarded to beach resorts and marinas that pass stringent tests on water quality, environmental management, visitor safety and services.

Most of Greece's Blue Flag awards, a total of 89, went to mainland beaches in Halkidiki.

But islands picked up a clutch of awards too with an impressive 50 flags for the Ionian islands of Corfu (11), Kefalonia (13), Zante (18) and Lefkas (8).

The favourite holiday island of Rhodes lifted 35 flags and resorts in Western Crete grabbed 34.

Santorini can now fly Blue flags on nine of its beaches, but Mykonos could manage only a single flag for the beach at Kalafatis.

It was a poor show too for Thassos in the northeast Aegean with a mere three Blue Flags and for the Sporades islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos with just three between all of them.

Samos too only managed to qualify for two Blue Flags, but Lesvos notched up an impressive 12 quality awards.

Across the world, the foundation has awarded the international eco-label to 3,687 beaches, 679 marinas and 55 sustainable tourism boats for 2014.

As well as promoting clean beaches and seas, the Blue Flag programme aims to connect the public with their surroundings and to encourage them to learn more about their environment.

Informing visitors about the site they are visiting is an essential part of the Blue Flag programme.

As well as stringent criteria and regular spot checks on water quality, beaches that qualify must have safety measures must be in place at all times, to ensure the well being of the public and environment.

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