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Dodecanese news and views

The Dodecanese is the name given to the long string of islands follow the Turkish coast. Where east meets west, many ate rich in culture and history with a strong Ottoman influence. Rhodes and Kos are the premier holiday islands with good flight and ferry links. Other popular holiday islands for independent travellers are Kalymnos, Patmos and Leros while Halki, Symi, Lipsi, Pserimos, Tilos and Nisyros are favourite day trip destinations.

Mastihari beach on Kos
Bumper holiday month for Kos

Bumper holiday month for Kos. Kos island Greece is celebrating a bumper month for tourist holiday visitors in August 2011. The number of Kos holiday visitors landing at the island's airport topped 190,000 in August compared with 160,000 in 2010. Tourism officials say the rise of nearly 18% in Greek holiday tourist traffic this year has caused 'justifiable euphoria' among Kos island hotel and tourist managers. A Kos island tourism spokesman said: "The August increase pushed tourism rates through the roof, continuing the success of previous months." Germany and the UK provide the biggest numbers of holiday visitors with nearly 34,000 arrivals in August this year, a rise of 6% on last year. Germany accounted for 38,000 August visitors – up a massive 27% on last year. Italy is next for Kos holiday arrivals in August with 24,000 flying in, a rise of nearly 15% on last year, while the Netherlands came fourth with 16,500 visitors, up nearly 11% in 2011. The August holiday figures were even better than those for Rhodes, which has let the way in this year's Greek island holiday revival.

Gialos harbour on Symi
Storm brews

Storm brews over Symi holiday sewage. Tourism on the Greek island of Symi could collapse if nothing is done to clean up pollution and provide safer drinking water, officials have been warned. Sewage outflows into the sea at Gialos and the nearby Symi holiday resort of Pedi is causing increasing concern for local people. A letter to the regional council urges swift action to investigate the extent of pollution and to set up a well designed project for the collection and biological treatment of waste water. A letter to the regional council says: "Pedi sewage ends up next to the stadium where children play sports and where water is pumped for desalination. "There are no suitable resources to develop the proper infrastructure such as waste water purification. Tourism development in Symi is in danger of collapse at any time if there is no directly appropriate environmental infrastructure." Political infighting among municipal leaders are blamed for years so of inaction over improvements to the island's sewage treatment problem. Now locals have asked regional officials to "undertake a survey on the situation in Symi with waste water treatment and to immediately inform the district council on initiatives to stop the pollution and environmental contamination." Visitors to Symi have complained at the stench of raw sewage going straight into the bay at Gialos. "It does not add much to the general atmosphere," said one visitor. Holiday companies advise visitors to Symi not to drink the local water. They say the tap water is safe but recommend that tourists drink bottled water. The water supply on Symi is very limited and, in the summer months, water is shipped by tanker from Rhodes and rationed out weekly to homes and hotels on the island.

Rhodes castle a major attraction
Best season

Best season ever for holidays on Rhodes. Holidays in Rhodes are more popular than ever this year with more than 2.5 million holidaymakers forecast to visit Rhodes in 2011. Tourism experts say holiday visitors to Rhodes will break all records this year if the seasonal trend continues. Arrivals on the Greek island holiday hotspot totalled 1.42 million, according to official figures. This year there have been 1.3 million visitors to the end of August compared to 1 million in the same period last year. Tour operators and hotel association say holiday visitor estimates for September and October are 15% up on last year and visitor numbers look set to the the best ever for Rhodes holidays. Tourism leaders on Rhodes hope the boost will breathe new life into the island economy, especially for small businesses. Despite the rise in visitors, tour operators are putting pressure on hotel owners on Rhodes to cut prices for contracts next year. Talks are already under way on room price deals for big tour operators. But Rhodes hotel owners are likely to hold out against price cuts as the island looks set to break through the 2.5 million barrier and notch up its best holiday season ever.

Ryanair may axe winter flights
Cheap flights

Cheap flights to Rhodes may be axed. Tourism leaders are alarmed at reports that cheap flight airline Ryanair could axe out-of-season flights to the Greek holiday islands of Rhodes and Kos. Rumours of the suspension of late season cheap holiday flights to the Greek islands resorts have triggered turmoil in the tourism sector on both islands. Ryanair has dismissed the rumours as 'speculation' but fears that the airline could drop cheap flights has prompted a political row on Rhodes where hopes have been running high of attracting more winter tourists. Political opposition leaders blame the Greek government for not pumping in cash to subsidise the routes which form a key plank of a campaign by tourism leaders to extend the holiday season on Rhodes well into the winter months. Rhodes hotels and tavernas have been encouraged to remain open to tempt more Rhodes holiday arrivals beyond the normal summer season. Now political leaders warn that 'possible disruption of flight operations of Ryanair would undermine the efforts to extend the tourist season and convert Rhodes to an all-season tourist destination.' Greek Tourism Minister Giorgios Nikitiadis is to visit Ryanair headquarters in Dublin later this month but he said the government had no contract with Ryanair to subsidise cheap holiday flights to Rhodes or Kos. "The government has not signed any contract with any low-budget airline," he insisted. There has been a big rise in Rhodes and Kos holidays arrivals this year with tourist visitors up more than 30%. It follows a big advertising campaigns to attract more holidaymakers tot he islands and it comes as numbers of people taking Greek island holidays surged 10% overall in the first six months of 2011. From November to April in 2009-2010, holiday arrivals on Rhodes flying Ryanair cheap holiday flights totalled about 8,000 and another 5,000 flew in for holidays on Kos using the cheap flight airline. Tourist leaders fear that cutting these flights this year would result in a severe blow to their all-year holiday campaign.

Patmos festival of sacred music
Sacred music

Sacred music festival on Patmos. Visitors on a Patmos island holiday get the opportunity to enjoy another Festival of Sacred Music to be held on the island of Patmos this September. This year the festival takes places from Friday 2nd to Wednesday, September 7 with artistic director and conductor Alkis Baltas under the direction of the Cultural Centre of Patmos. In its 10 years of history the festival has attracted thousands of visitors to experience the special atmosphere of the events as well as enjoy the beauty of a Greek Island holiday. The festival is held at the sacred cave where St John is reputed to have lived and where he received inspiration for the Book of Revelations in the Holy Bible. The Artistic Director of Festival of Patmos, conductor Alkis Baltas, said: "Confronting the sacred cave where John wrote the Apocalypse only a spiritual and serious music festival could take place, and that's what we do." The festival attracts both Greek and foreign visitors who flock to enjoy the solemn and sacred venue at one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the Greek islands. This year's program is a blend of classical, religious and gospel music with medieval devotional songs, jazz compositions religious and gospel spirituals and blues. Artists include the Voyage Jazz Quartet, soprano Eleni Peta and the American Portland-based choir Cappella Romana. It is the first time in its 20-year history that Cappella Romana has travelled to Greece. There will be works by Scarlatti, Pergolezi and Duke Ellington as well as the first performance of a work by Bob Blazoudaki "St. Menas: Facing the Sea" written especially for the 11th Festival of Patmos. Entrance to the concerts is free and the 11th Festival of Sacred Music of Patmos is financially supported by the Municipality of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, the South-Aigio Dodecanese Department of Culture Ministry of Culture and the Ethniki bank network.

Tsambika beach on Rhodes
Rhodes acts to protect tourists

Rhodes acts to protect holiday tourists. Port authorities in Rhodes are to crack down on activities that could cause problems or inconvenience to holiday visitors arriving in Rhodes. Street traders, room owners and others who pester tourists arrivals face tough action from the police as authorities try to promote quality tourism in the holiday island of Rhodes. A spokesman said there was concern at 'the phenomenon of solicitation in areas showing a high concentration of tourists during the summer peak period. "The unlawful activity, apart from the annoyance of tourists, is causing degradation of the tourist product of our country. "It is unacceptable . . . to harass the tourists who arrive in an area so they can receive travel, transportation other service catering, accommodation or entertainment.' Other measures include tighter inspection of tourist boats, a crackdown on camping at archaeological sites and taxi drivers who harass Greek island holiday visitors to Rhodes. Visitors who arrive on Rhodes by ferry can face a barrage of local traders offering cheap rooms, taxi rides and boat trips. While some tourists welcome the offers of accommodation and transport, others can find it annoying and even frightening. Now police have been told to eject anyone pestering visiting tourists unduly and to protect visitors from harassment, Port authorities have also been told to take what preventive measures they can to ensure visitors are treated properly. Police have also been told to remove tents, trailers from restricted areas. 'Installing tents or parking homes near archaeological sites, sea and generally public spaces, attacks and degrades the environment and alters the natural beauty of areas, posing a risk of fire and public health. For these reasons it must be removed immediately,' said a spokesman. Tourist boats will also be inspected rigorously to ensure boats are clean, in good order and meet regulations. Tourist boat owners have also been told to stick to safety rules and behave 'reasonably and with tact' when dealing with tourists. The moves are all part of measures on Rhodes to boost the quality of tourist facilities on Rhodes as the numbers visiting the popular holiday island begin to recover.

Old Town gateway Rhodes
Alarm at beggars

Alarm at rise of beggars in Rhodes Greece. Gangs of street beggars in the historic city of Rhodes, Greece, could drive away Greek island holiday tourists, city authorities have been warned. The Rhodes Hotel Association warns that the Medieval city, a World Heritage Site and major tourist attraction, has been swamped with gangs of beggars. The beggars include children and they are deliberately targeting tourist visitors as they wander the streets of the Old Town. They want urgent talks with the city mayor and police chiefs to tackle the rise in beggars and conmen who frequent the most popular tourists spots. A spokesman said: 'The recent phenomenon of begging is creating concern throughout the city. Begging seems to be an elaborate undertaking aimed at defrauding the public. The situation is now out of control and unacceptable.' Tourist traders have also been told to clean up their act if they are to continue to attract Greek island holidays in Rhodes.  Hotel owners complain of dirty streets cluttered with taverna tables, parking problems and poor toilets which they fear will reduce the number of tourist visitors. A statement issued by the Association stressed the need to restore the image of the area as soon as possible. A committee composed of members of the administration of the association is to meet the mayor of Rhodes to take action. The Association is currently working hard to promote greater tourism in the city. Plans include extending the tourist season and to promote student visits to the city.

Patmos cave
Patmos revelations

Patmos play based on Revelations. Holidaymakers on the Dodecanese island of Patmos can drop in on a theatrical performance based on the Book of Revelations this week. The production of 'The Book of Revelation' is billed as the first ever dramatic event based on the Biblical work and will be staged at the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos by the Techni Theatre Company. A well as being a popular Greek island holiday destination, the Greek island of Patmos is also known as the 'Holy Island' where St John reputedly wrote the last book of the Bible while exiled there. The Monastery of St John dominates Patmos on the hilltop above and the cave where the saint was thought to have lived. The performance will feature excerpts from Revelations spoken in four languages and is accompanied by an original music score. It is set to be staged on the island of Patmos from July 26 to 30. The production is being staged under the auspices of the Holy Monastery of Patmos and the island's regional authorities. It is directed by Germany's Barbara Hoffmann and Till Sterzenbach. Patmos is one of the most delightful of the Greek islands, away from the main beach holiday centres. The island is small, with an attractive main port and several very fine sandy beaches. Thanks to a deep harbour in the main port of Skala, Patmos is a popular stopover for cruise ships and visitors are taken on daily trips for the monastery and also to the cave where he is said to have lived. John was exiled to Patmos in 95AD from Ephesus, and lived in a cave, now the Cave of the Apocalypse or the Sacred Grotto. According to tradition it was here that John dictated the Book of Revelation to his disciple Prochoros. The work is surreal in nature, difficult to understand and open to many interpretations. The entrance to the cave is about halfway along the road from Skala up to the monastery and is surrounded by several monastic buildings. A plaque at the cave has the inscription: 'As dreadful as this place is it is nevertheless the house of God and this the Gate of Heaven' The cave is quite large, but low. There is the triple cleft in the rock through which St John is said to have heard the voice of God and there are several niches that St John himself is said to have carved.

Tsambika beach on Rhodes
Tax raids

Tax raids on Greek beach holiday sunbeds. Tax officials have raided beach sunbed operators on a Rhodes beach in a tough crackdown on tax evasion. Officials from the Special Audit Office (SDOE) carried out early morning raids on sunbed operators on Tsambika beach on Rhodes in a bid to detect tax cheats. They found that many operators had not registered their business with tax officials despite claiming sole trading rights over large areas of the holiday beach. According to reports, of the 20 'businesses' charging tourists for umbrellas and sunbeds on the holiday beach of Tsampika, more than half did not meet minimum legal trading requirements. When officials tried to trace owners of some of the sunbeds they found they had 'disappeared'. Operators normally rent beach areas from the Municipality of Rhodes and should pay tax on their profits. But many do not have cash registers and they often fail to keep proper records. The Special Audit Service is to carry out more raids on beaches this summer in order to stamp out tax evasion. Tsampika or Tsambika is a one kilometre stretch of deep, golden sand and one of the most beautiful to be found on holiday island of Rhodes. Tsambika beach Rhodes sits beneath two huge rock outcrops about 26km from Rhodes Town. Tsambika beach is covered in sunbeds for most of its length with several beach cantinas serving the basics. Tsambika beach is good, soft sand and the water is shallow and calm for about 50 metres out to sea, so this is a very popular spot with families.

Rhodes marina
Dock in Rhodes

More tourists dock in Rhodes. Passenger traffic through the post of Rhodes, Greece rose by around 12,000 last month, according to immigration officials. A total of 98,889 passed through the ports in June compared to 86,629 in the same period last year. The main reason for the rise in tourist numbers was the large number of cruise ship which tied up in the port of Rhodes bringing in an estimated 70,000 tourists.  A total in 72 cruise ships arrived in June while yacht numbers rose to 188. Rhodes is hoping to cash in on changes in the operation of the cruise liners in Greece after a relaxation in protectionist laws that restricted companies with non-EU crews from landing in Greek ports to allow passengers to disembark. According to the Hellenic Chamber of Greece the move to relax the law could allow Greek ports to more than its double revenues from  cruise companies and put Greece on a level with Spain, a country that makes about €1.2 billion annually from cruise liner fees.

Wind power on Greek islands
Wind power plans

Many smaller Greek islands plan on going green in the near future by meeting the full total of all their power needs entirely from renewable energy sources. Now, in a programme announced by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change and financed by the European Community, there are plans to give several Greek islands a zero footprint in terms of the energy they use. The aim is to enable as many Greek islands as possible to supply all their total energy needs from renewable energy sources only. They will use wind and wave power to supply electricity, drive electric vehicles, promote energy conservation in all island buildings and use agricultural waste to create gas and fuel. The Greek holiday island of Paxos as well as Leros, Fourni, Symi, Tilos, Gavdos and Agathonisi have all expressed interest in the scheme.  To qualify for aid the islands must have a small population (500-800 people), get the backing of the island community and have the ability to utilize alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal, biomass, waves and agricultural waste. The aim is to create a zero energy balance so that power production with be greater than demand, with 100% renewable energy.  Island authorities have until late July to lodge submissions of interest and judging the cases will take place by the end of September. Islands that have been selected for the scheme will be announced in October and November. The trend for islands to become self sufficient in energy has been growing in recent years.  The island of Samson, in Denmark, is the most famous along with the Pelvorm island of Germany.  Similar projects do exist in Greece, notably Lipsi which has only limited help in meeting its energy needs which is generated largely from renewable sources.

Poisonous puffer fish
Poison fish alert

Bathers in Greek Islands' holiday resorts and other Mediterranean tourist hotspots are warned to be on the lookout for a poisonous puffer fish. The poisonous fish (pufferfish) has recently appeared in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and has a powerful toxin that can cause muscle paralysis and breathing difficulties. The sting is delivered through sharp spikes that cover the fish's body. The fish puffs itself up into a spike encrusted ball when alarmed. The poisonous spikes can  even be fatal. The pufferfish is one of more than 900 new alien species found in coastal ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean Sea over the past years according to a four-year investigation by a Greek scientists, which focused on coastal areas around Rhodes. The scientists claim the entire marine food chain has undergone major changes and pressures as many non endemic species have moved into Mediterranean waters. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, in cooperation with the Greek Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), says that the Mediterranean has accepted a large invasion of alien species but warn there is insufficient understanding of how this invasion has affected ecosystems, animals and plants. In the coastal ecosystems around the holiday island of Rhodes the pufferfish seem to have acquired a dominant position, with ecological and marine impacts.  But the study insists there is insufficient information and knowledge to make an appropriate risk assessment of the impact of these alien species. The report says the building of the Suez Canal in 1869 probably opened a path for the spread of species from other oceans into the Mediterranean. The cumulative effects have brought dramatic changes to plants and fish, especially in ecosystems in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, near to to Rhodes. Scientists say the sandy sea bottom and seagrass bed have helped the emergence and establishment of alien species causing major changes in the marine food chain.

Rhodes castle a major attraction
Rhodes season

Rhodes to extend holiday season. Rhodes looks poised to make a bid to extend the summer season and bring in more holiday visitors out of season. Rhodes looks poised to make a bid to extend the summer season and bring in more holiday visitors out of season. The moves were discussed at a meeting of the Association of Directors Hotel Rhodes. Members were urged to launch the initiative this year. Rhodes looks poised to make a bid to extend the summer season and bring in more holiday visitors out of season. The moves were discussed at a meeting of the Association of Directors Hotel Rhodes. Members were urged to launch the initiative this year by promoting more out of season holiday visits to Rhodes in February, March and November. Hotel owners were asked not to close down their holiday operations at the end of October this year but to stay open longer.  They were told that Rhodes in November averages 22 sunny days each year and that the sea is still warm enough for swimming. Rhodes has many other attractions besides sea and sun, members were told, and they should look to extend the attractions beyond the traditional beach holiday season. Association members were told: 'All you have to do is not to close operations but to keep our beaches clean and organized. In November we can attract conferences, walkers, use spa hotels for those who love cycling and nature, golfers, water sports such as wind surfing, diving, wedding celebrations and special programs for the elderly along with religious tours to the monasteries of Rhodes, etc.' They are urged to cash in on extra flights being offered by low cost airlines out of season. The island could also promote Rhodes city breaks and cruises. The biggest problem is changing attitudes of local companies that traditionally close down in October , especially in ttp://www.greekisland.co.uk/rhodes/rodostown.html.12(Rhodes Old Town) and to persuade airlines to continue flight offers until late November. The next objective will be to promote holidays in Rhodes in February and March with more cultural events, festivals and street markets. And they want car rental firms, restaurants, bars and cafes to offer out-of-season discounts. A statement added: 'It is wrong to sell only sun and sea when we have so many other benefits of equal value. With sunny weather for 300 days we only operate on 160 days.  We have a lively medieval town recognized by UNESCO but condemn to hibernation for winter rather than have it open for visitors all year.'

Artists impression of new marina
Rhodes marina

Set sail for new Rhodes holiday marina. Having got ropes snagged more times than I can remember it's good to hear that the new marina is to open shortly in Rhodes.  After years in the making and delays that could only happen in Greece, the £60m marina complex is expected to open this June in time for the Rhodes summer holiday season. As well as moorings for more boats the new Rhodes marina complex will also feature a host of extra facilities for visiting tourists.  They include a bank, shops, restaurants, cafeterias, gym, spa with swimming pool, green areas and a landscape promenade along the marina's main pier, no doubt all charging tourist prices. Tourist watchers expect more than 20,000 visitors to arrive in Rhodes by boat this year. The new marina has berths for about 400 boats and with at least 50 for so-called super-yachts.  A new ring road linking the marina to Rhodes International Airport was finished recently so boaters can hop on a plane or vice versa.

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