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Corfu island news and views

A beach holiday favourite for several decades, Corfu is located in the Ionian chain of Greek islands that lie off the north-west coast of mainland Greece. One of the first to be "discovered" by package holiday firms parts of Corfu have been overrun with cheap hotels and happy-hour bars. But most of the downmarket damage has been confined to a few areas; large parts of Corfu have some of the most beautiful beaches and most romantic villages in the Greek islands.

Azimut ferry Joy
New ferry links for the Ionian

The Ionian islands look set to get a new ferry to link some of the biggest holiday hotspots in Greece. The Ionian chain includes the very popular holiday islands of Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante. Although they attract thousands of UK visitors each year, ferry links between the islands have always been notoriously poor. Now a ferry route to link all the Ionian islands for the first time looks ready to set sail on May 1 and run right through the summer season until the end of October. Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis announced the new ferry service at the Regional Development Conference of the Ionian islands. The new sea ferry services will be run by Azimut Joy Cruises with a 30-metre ship that will carry up to 260 passengers. The Minister said: "The linking of the Ionian islands will be a new reality that will put an end to the isolation between islands belonging to the same region". The new ferry will link Corfu with Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos with sailings every day except Sunday. Each week the ferry with travel from Corfu, in the north, to Zante (Zakynthos), in the south, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and back again (Zante to Corfu) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The full journey will take about eight hours, leaving Corfu at 8 am and arriving in Zakynthos about 4 pm. Details of sailing time can be found on the right. It's only in Greek at the moment but those with a basic knowledge of the Greek alphabet will be able to decipher the islands of ΚΕΡΚ"Ρ' ΚΕΡΚΥΡA (CORFU), ΠAΞΟΙ (PAXOS), ΛΕΥΚADA (LEFKADA), ΙΘAΚH (ITHAKA), ΚΕΦAΛΟΝΙA (KEFALONIA) and ZAΚΥΝΘΟS (ZAKYNTHOS) or something similar. Although plenty of ferries call at these islands they are usually heading east-west on routes between the mainlands of Italy and Greece. There are a few local inter-island ferries but these usually just day cruises, have poor connections and irregular sailing times. This is the first ferry to run the whole length of the Ionian islands.  With three passenger and car ferries plus two flying dolphins, Joy Lines, a subsidiary of Joy Cruises, has been operating since 2005 running day cruises and tours from Corfu to Albania. The launch of this new Ionian ferry service could trigger a wave of island hopping tourists who can now sail from island to island.  As the closest Greek islands to the UK, the Ionian islands can be reached in flight times of three hours or so. The Ionian group lies off the west coast of mainland Greece and the are notably greener than other islands thanks to heavy winter rains. Good sandy beaches and shallow seas help to make most islands in the Ionian chain very popular with families. Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante are the best known but the smaller islands of Paxos and Ithaka are also well worth a visit.

hellenic seaplanes
Seaplane test on Corfu

The first seaplane test flights in Greece have been carried out on the Ionian island of Corfu. A 10-seater Quest Zodiac flew from Corfu Town harbour to neighbouring Paxi and other islands in the area. The flights are another critical step in getting regular Greek island seaplane flights off the ground following seven years of setbacks. But the seaplane test flights only show what unsatisfactory progress has been made so far in a project bogged down in Greek red tape and little hope of regular services next year. The seaplane repeatedly took off and landed at the port of Corfu and destinations in nearby islands. The flights were overseen by a consortium of Water Airports SA, K2 Smart Jets and two Japanese companies all hoping to get flights underway for the 2018 tourist season. But business leaders admit it's a been long haul. K2 Smart Jets owner Andreas Karotsieri said: "Our goal is to begin operating flights immediately when the next tourist season starts, but that depends on whether state mechanisms, which are particularly slow, will work at corresponding speeds." Little hope of that as the Greek government continues to limit licences and drag its heels. Rivals, Hellenic Seaplanes SA, has been trying for five years to establish a waterway network top operate seaplane services to the Greek islands. But it is faced with a hall of bureaucratic mirrors. A public consultation on the licensing of waterways ended in September 2016 but has not yet been discussed by the Greek Parliament. Without a legal framework in place, there is little chance of private companies investing in waterway infrastructure which the Greek government now says must be publicly owned. But public investment is at a snail's pace as officials get bogged down in approvals of expenditure, tender processing, policy changes, water and land surveys, risk assessments and ecological surveys. In 2016 the government banned private waterways, despite companies pouring millions of euros into the project. But with an insufficient number of public owned waterways to ensure sustainability for companies and a stable legal framework, seaplane services have little chance of taking off. The Hellenic Seaplanes group has negotiated waterway concessions for many Greek islands including Skyros, Alonissos, Skopelos, Tinos, Patmos, Thassos and Chios. Water Airports SA now has licences to operate seaplane bases in Corfu, Paxi and Patras and want to licence another 34 seaplane bases in the Ionian, Crete, Cyclades, Dodecanese and Saronic Gulf, Immediate plans are to launch regular flights from Corfu next spring, but Hellenic Seaplanes were saying the same last year, and the year before that, and the year before ...

Kassiopi harbour Corfu
Corfu land sell-off

The small but popular Corfu beach resort of Kassiopi looks set to undergo a multi-million euro facelift. A deal to develop a massive hotel complex looks likely following the sell-off of a huge plot of public land to private developers for a reported €23 million. The land deal paves the way for developers NHC Capital to begin a €77 million investment in luxury hotels and tourist facilities on undeveloped land. The Greek government put 121 acres of hilltop land on the market as part of plans to pay off massive debts and overseas loans. The property runs along 725 metres of coastline to the south-west of the resort and just north of the bay at Agios Stefanos. Much of the land is close the Rothschild estate, a favourite holiday haunt of Prince Charles. The new holiday complex is likely to be an up-market development of a luxury hotel, exclusive holiday villas and leisure facilities that will probably include a marina. The land is currently undeveloped, mostly forest with wetland areas, a small lake called Vromolimni with the islet of Psilos Ena offshore and lies about 40m from Corfu's International Airport. The land has been sold by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), a body set up specially to dispose of state -owned land to developers. The Greek holiday resort of Kassiopi has long been popular with British holidaymakers, It's dominated downmarket tavernas, clubs and karaoke bars with a few surviving traditional tavernas. It boasts four pebble beaches spread across three small bays dotted around the headland although none are particularly good and better beaches can be found south at Avlaki. Kassiopi is a favourite port of call for round-island boat trips, and there are plenty of tavernas and cafes around the harbour which is overlooked by a small castle. The sale was approved on the last day of 2016 with NCH Capital the only bidder in the tender process, and the company has now secured a 99-year lease on the land. The sale is one of several being negotiated by HRADF in a privatisation scheme that began in the early 1990s in ambitious plans to reduce Greece's public debts. A portfolio of state-owned Greek assets is thought to be worth €50 million and include marine ports and airports as well as public utilities, railways and banks. Land sales currently in the pipeline include beachfront plots at Afandou on Rhodes and the old Athens airport at Hellinikon. HRADF was set up to oversee public/private partnerships and fast track planning and licensing to accelerate development. Greek planning regulations have been overhauled to 'shift from a relative and defensive planning culture to a proactive and enabling one' according to the government. Expect to see plenty more Greek state-owned assets go under the hammer.

Corfu Achilleion
Winter holidays on Corfu

The popular Greek island of Corfu is the latest to promote itself as a winter holiday destination – but in Spain rather than the UK. Despite being one of the favourite Greek island holiday destinations for Brits, the delights of Corfu are splashed across the latest Spanish edition of a leading travel magazine InStyle. Headlined 'Mediterranean Winter' an eight-page article in the fashion and lifestyle magazine features Spanish actress Carolina Bang touting Corfu as the island to be seen in the winter months. The article boasts of Corfu as "a great destination for those who seek the light of the Mediterranean, even in the coldest of months." A strange claim given Spain's own Balearic islands lie on virtually the same parallel as the Ionian and offer just as much winter sun. The feature shows the Spanish actress sipping cocktails outside Corfu's Byzantine Fortress and strolling around the narrow streets and small boutiques. With winter temperatures on both Spanish and Greek islands averaging a cool 11°C, there is no comparison when it comes to rainfall. Corfu is notorious for its heavy winter rains, with rainfall often higher than London, and an average 12 rainy days a month in the winter compared to three days on the Balearic islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The Spanish article promotes more than Corfu sunshine however and features the many island museums, the churches, the Corfiot cuisine and the cafe lifestyle of the capital town's Liston Arcade as well as other Corfu attractions. A growing number of Greek islands are promoting themselves as a winter destination this year. Santorini recently launched a campaign to attract more winter visitors. Hotel and taverna owners have been persuaded to stay open over the winter months, and visitor attraction will keep their doors open all year round as well. Other initiatives aimed at promoting all-year-round tourism include running more regular transport services over the winter such as flights from Athens and daily ferries. The initiative may well pave the way for other Greek islands to cash in on attracting more winter visitors. More islands are expected to follow as the Greek government pledges cash to stimulate the winter tourism trade.

hellenic seaplanes otter
Corfu seaplanes latest

Corfu may be on track to launch its new seaplane services this year but officials are concerned about exactly where they will be allowed to land. Seaplane flights got a boost last year when the Greek government decided to fast-track applications to build seaplane landing strips on islands across Greece. Seaplanes are seen as a quickly and relatively cheap way to open up tourist transport links between the Greek Islands and help boost holiday visitors numbers on even the most remote islands. Corfu was one of the first to apply for a license to operate seaplane services from the main port to other islands in the Ionian Sea such as Paxos, Kefalonia,Lefkas and Zakynthos. But it appears that other Greek Islands in the Ionian group have not been as swift as Corfu in getting clearance to build offshore seaplane landing strips. Now Corfu tourist leaders are worried that seaplanes may be able to take off from Corfu this summer but not have anywhere to land. A special conference organised to discuss the development of seaplane services warned that priority must be given to establishing suitable landing sites in the Ionian if the Corfu project was to be a success. "It is very important after the water-drome in Corfu is licensed that water-dromes on other Ionian Islands offer facilities for the sustainable operation of seaplanes in the rest of the region,' delegates were told. A dossier supporting the building of a water-drome on the neighbouring island of Paxos is still waiting for authorisation. Hopes are high that it will get the greek light this month but the granting of a license to build is only the first stage in a complex planning process. It may well be that Corfu seaplanes could be sitting idle in Corfu harbour this year because they have no official places where they can land. This could be a major embarrassment for the Greek authorities who have been keen to push ahead with seaplane services to cash in on the 2015 tourist season. Although Paxos is pushing ahead with plans for a water-drome there has been a 'distinct lack of interest' in the scheme by authorities on Lefkas where initial interest in the seaplane project quickly faded, the conference was told. But it's not only the other Ionian islands where initial enthusiasm has stalled. Mainland ports in the Peloponnese and Ioannina have yet to get plans for seaplane services off the ground. "The challenge now is to proceed as quickly as possible licensing water-dromes in other Ionian islands, the continental shores of our region and also in the Peloponnese or Ioannina for tourist seaplane flight to become viable," conference delegates heard. "With Corfu the only port with a licensed water-drome, routes cannot be started and for seaplane companies to be sustainable, it should be possible for a network of routes and development of a minimum flight operations to the other Ionian Islands, Lake of Ioannina and the port of Patras." The lack of interest in the seaplane project is puzzling. It is not as though water-dromes are expensive to build. Construction and maintenance costs are relatively small. On Paxos, for example, the wooden deck and a prefabricated shelter to check in passengers for seaplane flights had come in at less that €20,000. And it is not as though seaplane project have been bogged down in red tape, as happened the last time seaplane services were attempted in the Ionian. The Greek Ministry of Transport is bending over backwards to get licenses issued. The Mayor of Corfu warned delegates that seaplanes ought to have adopted as a means of transport between the Ionian islands 'many decades ago'. He told the meeting: "There are countries that base an entire internal communication network in seaplanes. For the Ionian islands will be very important for the development of communication between our islands." Seaplanes are expected to be a cheap and versatile means of transport between islands and serve not only the tourism sector but also be used to fly in medical supplies, small items of cargo and take part in search and rescue operations.

Achilleion Palace Sissi Corfu
Corfu palace monument

Thousand of holiday visitors to Corfu take time off from the island's golden sand beaches to visit one of the many museums and historic sites. And high on the list for any visitor to Corfu is the impressive Achilleion Palace, also called Sissi's Palace which lies 12 kilometres south of Corfu Town in the village of Gastouri. Now Greek officials have granted 'monument' status to the many artefacts, such as sculptures and furniture, that grace the extensive gardens and rooms at the historic site. Built in 1890 for Elizabeth (Sissi), the Empress of Austria, Achilleion Palace became her summer retreat with manicured gardens and picturesque views over the Ionian sea. The palace grounds were designed on the theme of the mythical Greek hero Achilles and has become one of the island's top tourist attractions. Many Achilleion artefacts have already been classed as monuments notably the 61 marble sculptures that are scattered around the gardens, the 50 paintings and engravings that hand on the walls of the various rooms and the bronze sculptures and carvings that can be seen in many of the rooms. Now, Greece's Central Council of Modern Monuments has added a total of 45 items of furniture, eight mirrors and a even a pipe organ to the list. The furniture comes from two periods in the palace's history. The first are the pieces commissioned by Empress Elizabeth during the late 19th century. These include the palace library, which is adorned with embossed decorations and inlaid marquetry, a desk and a chair with embossed mythical creatures, a wardrobe and mirror featuring carved dolphins and several items of furniture from the palace chapel. The other furniture comes from the later period when the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, lived at the palace. This includes oak furniture with white lacquer and bronze decorations as well as a desk with a swivel chair, a red marble dresser and a cast iron bedstead. It was Kaiser Wilhelm who ordered the building of the distinctive Kaiser bridge, a stone jetty set in the cliffs below for berthing the royal yacht. A hugely popular tourist attraction on Corfu, the palace recently underwent a major revamp to protect and restore all four of the main buildings: the palace museum, the Regiment building, the Baron's building and the Porter's building. The palace fell into disrepair after the First World War when foreign troops stripped of many of its treasures but the building was eventually restored by the Greek government and many of its contents recovered. The impressive palace, its gardens stuffed with neoclassical Greek statues and with very fine over the surrounding Corfu landscape and the Ionian sea have made it more than a major tourist attraction. The palace also featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, shot there in 1981 and starring the British actor Roger Moore. Several scenes in the twelfth Bond spy film were shot in the Sissi Palace casino. The palace gets very busy in the summer with thousands of tourists bussed in on special tours so visitors who prefer a quiet stroll through the palace and its gardens should arrive early to avoid the coach tour crowds.

cruise ship costa fascino corfu
New holiday cruises to Corfu

Holidays cruises to Corfu could get busier with new cruise ship and ferry routes opening up to port resorts in Italy. The Corfu Port Authority (CPA) is set to relaunch the Corfu to Italy coastal shipping route in the summer of 2015 with new sailings to the southern Italian port of Brindisi in the Apulia region on the Adriatic coast. New cruise holiday routes will also be opened up to the Italian Adriatic port resorts of nearby Bari and the eastern seaport of Ancona, not far from Rome. On top of this talks on a new route from Venice to Corfu are also under way and, if it gets the go-ahead, is expected to attract many more visitors from Italy and Northern Europe. Starting a Greek island holiday from Italy, with a ferry or cruise crossing of the Adriatic is already a popular option for many holidaymakers. In fact, the most common way to travel between Italy and Greece is by ferry across the Adriatic Sea with several Italian ports to choose from to take a ferry to Greece, Croatia, and many other Mediterranean destinations. Brindisi is already the Italian port most commonly used to catch a ferry to Greece as it offers the most travel options. Frequent ferries leave Brindisi for the Greek islands of Corfu and Kefalonia then on to the mainland Greek ports of Igoumenitsa, and Patras. Brindisi is located at the 'heel' of the Italian boot and it's the most southern Italian ferry port. It's possible for cruise holiday passengers to reach Corfu from Brindisi in under seven hours with departures throughout the day. Bari is also in southern Italy and holiday visitors can catch a ferry here to Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patras as well as Dubrovnik, Split, and other ports in Croatia. Most Bari ferries leave in the evening and have sleeping cabins. The fastest ferries travel between Bari and Corfu in about eight hours. Bari's ferry port is close to the resort's historic centre, centro storico, which is a pleasant place to explore before the ferry leaves. Ancona is in central Italy and is probably the most convenient port for a ferry to Corfu if you don't want to travel overland to the southern Italian ports, but the sea journeys are much longer. Ancona ferries go to Igoumenitsa and Patra. with journey times to the former taking 15 to 20 hours and for travel to Patras it's more like 20-23 hours. The ferries from Venice will probably take around 24 hours to reach Corfu and longer to get to Igoumenitsa and Patras. Ferries usually leave Venice in the evening and sail overnight. More cruise ship visitors for 2015 Corfu tourist leaders are confident that new ferry services will bring in plenty more visitors in 2015. Port authorities are already boasting 370 slots already booked by large-capacity cruise ships for next year and are confident of even more booking from smaller cruise operators. Earlier this month the docking of the Costa Fascinosa cruise ship in Corfu officially marked the end of the tourist season for the Ionian island port. Tourism officials are pleased with visitor figures this year despite the difficult economic conditions in Greece and the unstable political situation in the wider east European region. According to latest figures a total of 672,000 cruise passengers visited Corfu with around 72.000 passengers staying in Corfu for their holidays in 2014. Corfu Port Authority figures show a high occupancy rate of berths in the port this year at 90.3% compared to 87.5 % in 2013 and 86% in 2012. The majority of ship passengers visiting Corfu were from the UK with a total of 145,353 passengers or 22.8% of total boat traffic, followed by the Italians with 112,554 passengers (17.7%) and the Germans with 6,489 (10%). One of the most encouraging signs for Corfu tourism officials was the growing upward trend to cruise and other ship passenger arrivals throughout the year with November notching up one of its highest rates with 18 cruise ships berthing in Corfu post being 30,871 cruise passengers. Although port activity in Corfu was down overall for the year, port officials say this was expected given the difficult economic times for the Greek economy. Overall cruise visits dipped for the whole year with 85 fewer cruise ships docking at Corfu, down 17%, and a fall of 10% on the 709,000 passengers that arrived in 2013.

deep blue yacht
Sailing the Greek Islands

There are many ways of seeing the illustrious Greek islands, but no way is better that touring the rich waters of the Mediterranean by boat and pulling into the port of any island that takes your fancy. While there are other methods of travel, by ferry, plane or car, that all have their own merits, nothing comes close to the advantages of your very own sailing boat. Freedom: Every other form of transport is limited when it comes to the Greek islands. A car, for example, might be able to get you around the quickest, but it can only travel around islands that have a car ferry system. However, aboard your own personal seafaring vessel, with the warm Med breeze in your hair, you decide where to go. This is the main benefit of charting your own boat, it creates an absolute and rare sense of freedom. Why limit yourself to just a few of these beautiful islands, when there are thousands to explore? Activities: With the freedom comes a greater range of activities available to you. One of the best activities you can get the most out of when sailing is snorkeling. Able to go anywhere in the deep blue Med you want, you can travel to all the best reef and wildlife spots, the Cyclades islands for example, to explore the underwater realm like few others can. Another firm favourite aspect of travelling in Greece is visiting beaches. Out on the boat you are able to find some of the most beautiful, secluded, beaches in the entire world. Away from the public, it feels like it's your own private paradise. One of the biggest reasons people visit the beautiful islands of Greece is its cultural and architectural history. Sailing about these islands allows you to visit any and all places of significance to you. Meaning you won't miss out on any of the wondrous ancient Greek ruins they have to offer. Finally, one of the most exciting activities you can take part in while commanding your own vessel, is simply exploring. There are many mysterious and uninhabited islands in the waters surrounding Greece, filled with breathtaking scenery and awe inspiring views. Walking through island wilderness, untouched by any man, is an experience you have to try. In a world where people hide in every nook and cranny, a quiet and natural paradise out of mans reach is simply magnificent. A word of caution though, some islands are protected because of their significant biodiversity or ecological importance. Before you moor up and go exploring, make sure you are permitted to access the island. Best Of Both Worlds: Being immersed in a private world is an experience like no other, getting away from the world and simply enjoying the wonders it has to offer. But, sometimes you want to go into the hustle and bustle of the main island towns. Maybe to do a bit of shopping, enjoy the local nightlife or find a nice restaurant to eat at. With so many bays and ports you can throw anchor in, you can not only enjoy all the bliss and rarities from your boat, but also the lively, tourist, hotspots. Author Cliff Blaylock, a resident of the Greek Islands, is an expert in travelling the Mediterranean by boat. Having left the UK to start his private charter business, Bill and his team have over 20 years experience treating customers to all the wonders the islands have to offer. If you like the sound of a privately chartered trip, but don't know how to sail, then check out Cliff's privately run and professionally crewed, yacht chartering service www.deepblueyachting.co.uk

hellenic seaplanes otter2
Corfu gets first seaplanes

The popular holiday island of Corfu looks set to get Greek island seaplane services flying again after a deal was signed to open the first water airport in Greece. The move follows clearance by Greek environmental officials on the impact of a water airport to the south-west of the main harbour in Corfu Town. The agreement should pave the way for up to 100 seaplane services to Greek islands across the Aegean, providing tourist visitors with quick and easy access to popular holiday resorts as well as to many of the more remote Greek islands. The private company Hellenic Seaplanes has plans to operate scheduled flights from Athens to all Greek islands, coastal ports and lakes where the current transportation system is inadequate or problematic. The company says scheduled inter-island routes will be established based on demand generated from the local communities and from company partners. The approval for the creation of the first water airport in Greece on the island of Corfu was signed by Greek Environment Minister Giannis Maniatis following a meeting with officials from the Corfu Port Authority and senior executives of Hellenic Seaplanes. Approval has been granted for the creation of a new water airport to the south-west of the existing port of Corfu with buildings, a floating pier and permission for up to 10 flights per day. A nearby desalination unit may have to be rebuilt at the port's eastern entrance to help make way for the new seaplane port. Greek Environment Minister Giannis Maniatis said: "With this approval, we are giving the green light to create water airports across the country, having now configured all the required processes." "The support of the investment initiative and the formation of another development landscape in the country will substantially contribute to the upgrading of the tourist product and the creation of new jobs." Greek seaplanes take 10 years to get off the ground It has certainly been a long time getting inter-island seaplane services off the ground in Greece. The first Greek seaplane service was launched by Canadian-backed company AirSea Lines way back in 2004 with seaplanes flying out of the holiday resort of Gouvia. The Greek company used two de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft to run seaplane services from the marina at Gouvia, Corfu to the nearby islands of Paxi and to Ithaka, off the coast of Kefalonia. In 2007 AirSea Lines tried to expand its network into the Aegean but was forced to use the smaller port of Lavrio rather than its preferred location of Piraeus, near Athens, after finding insufficient infrastructure at Piraeus for seaplane operations. But the airline ceased operations the following year in 2008, citing Greek bureaucratic and infrastructure hurdles and unworkable regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Greek Merchant Marine Ministry. The problems could have been overcome but for Greek government red tape that held up negotiations for months. Among the problems cited was the demand that only Greek pilots be allowed to fly the planes. Ironically, it was the collapse of the Greek economy and a possible exit from Europe that helped pave the way for the revival of seaplane services as the government set about clearing red tape and bureaucracy that threatened to stifle entrepreneurial companies. Red tape cleared for seaplane flights Hellenic Seaplanes was set up in 2013, with headquarters in Athens, following the passing of the bill in the Greek parliament that set the legal framework for water aerodrome and seaplane operations in Greece, relaxed regulations and cleared much of the red tape that had dogged the original plans of AirSea Lines. Hellenic Seaplanes now plans to operate around 100 scheduled flights between Greek islands and coastal ports by the end of 2015. As well as scheduled seaplane services, the company also plans sightseeing tours over the Greek Islands as well as a variety of excursion packages. It also hopes to launch charter flights and private fire flights for tourist and business groups and for government, corporate, institutional, scientific, medivac, search and rescue, sports teams, advertising and other promotional services. The latest plans should prove a big boost to tourism in the Greek islands. Many of the more remote islands should get a significant tourist boost as they become much easier to reach, especially islands with poor ferry connections. Corfu and the Ionian islands provide an excellent platform to launch operations as, although islands like Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante are close to each other, ferry connections between them and many of the smaller offshire islands such as Ithaka, Paxos and Meganissi are relatively poor.

Corfu's Paleokastritsa loses its Blue Flag
Beaches stripped of Blue Flags

Greek islands lose 38 Blue Flags after spot checks. Spot checks on Greek island holiday beaches this summer have resulted in a total of 38 beaches being stripped of their coveted international Blue Flag status. It means that some beaches on popular island holiday destinations like Corfu, Crete, Lesvos and Zante will not be able to fly the Blue Flag in the 2015 summer season as they will not be eligible to enter for consideration. In 2014, a total of 408 Blue Flags were awarded to Greek beaches in the Islands and on the Greek mainland, adding another 15 to the 2013 figure of 393. But that number has now dropped to 370 after inspections during the summer revealed that the 38 beaches failed to fulfil the strict criteria that are required to maintain Blue Flag status, most of them on the island of Corfu. According to the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, spot checks found that although many of the Greek Blue Flag beaches had clean waters, they also had serious deficiencies in the provision of services to bathers. Other beaches did not meet criteria relating to cleanliness, safety measures for bathers or they failed to provide proper environmental and coastal area protection measures. Beaches on Corfu were the worst affected as 23 out of the 30 Blue Flag bathing resorts on the island failed to measure up to in spot inspections this year. Among major Corfu beaches losing the accolade are the hugely popular holiday resorts at Roda, Sidari, Alykes, Ypsos, Palaiokasistra, Benitses, Messonghi, Agios Gordos, Glyfades, Arillas and Barbati. Other Greek island beaches that have been stripped of their Blue Flags are located in Lesvos which lost three at Petra, Skala Eressos and Nyfida; Zakynthos which had flags taken down at Alykes and Alykanas and Crete where one beach at Rethymnon failed to come up to scratch. Other beaches losing their Blue Flag status this summer are located in Kavala, Magnesia, Preveza, Rodopi and Fthiotida. The Blue Flag award is a voluntary eco-label awarded to beaches across the world and issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which rates beaches on their cleanliness, safety, visiotor facilities, environmental management, water quality and all-round tidiness. The 2014 Blue Flag beach and marina awards put Greece second in the international league table of 51 countries who have signed up for the scheme to promote safe, clean beaches by the Foundation for Environmental Education. This year the international committee awarded Blue Flags to 3,372 beaches and 650 marinas worldwide, up on last year's 3,103 beaches and 626 marinas . The awards are issued annually to participating FEE member countries in Europe, Canada and North Africa. In November, Blue Flags are awarded to beaches in the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Africa and other southern hemisphere countries. The 2014 Blue Flag beach awards still leave Greece second in the international league table of 51 countries who have signed up for the scheme despite the loss of such a large number. But it will be a serious blow to the islands' reputation for clean and safe holiday beaches, especially on Corfu which was once top of the league for clean beaches in the Greek islands but has now tumbled almost to the bottom of the table. For a full list of which Greek beaches have had their Blue Flag status withdrawn you can click here.

corfu-world-travel-awards 2014
Corfu takes top Euro beach title

Best beaches accolade for Corfu at World Travel Awards. The popular Greek holiday island of Corfu has taken the top title as Europe's Leading Beach Destination in this year's World Travel Awards 2014. The island took over the honour from last year's winner, the Algarve in Portugal, at a gala ceremony in Athens. The award, known as the 'Oscars' of the travel industry was received by Corfu Governor Christos Iraklis Skourtis, The Acropolis in Athens won the title of Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction, the island of Corfu was dubbed Europe's Leading Beach Destination and Aegean Airlines won Europe's Leading Regional Airline in a gala ceremony. World Travel Awards President Graham Cooke said: "It was a fantastic night for our winners, congratulations to them all. This is our first visit to Greece and Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso have done a wonderful job in hosting our Europe Gala Ceremony; they should be tremendously proud of their achievements." A holiday favourite of the British since Victorian times, Corfu is the Greek Islands that is closest to the UK and the most northern of the Ionian chain of islands that run down off the north-west coast of mainland Greece. One of the first of the Greek islands to be opened up for package tourism, the downmarket demands of package tour operators, took their toll in the 1960's and 1970's with many Corfu beaches and fishing villages bulldozed to make way for cheap hotels and neon-lit bars. Indeed Corfu, like Kos and Crete, were once an embarrassing by-word for cheap-as-chips holidays aimed at lager-lout tourists. Much has changed in recent years with the island 'rediscovered' by more discerning tourists. Around 10,000 Brits have permanent homes on the island and, away from the popular tourist strips is wild and unspoilt countryside, little touched by tourism. The most popular holiday beaches are found in the north and east Corfu while the west boasts remote bays and the central hills has remote villages and Corfiots who are famously welcoming and friendly The European awards by the World Travel Awards(WTA) marks the second leg of its annual grand tour which opened in Dubai earlier this year and now heads to Ecuador, for the South and Central America awards followed by stop in Nigeria, India, and the Caribbean island of Anguilla before the Grand Final Marrakech, Morocco in November. WTA's global media partner network includes International New York Times, TV5Monde, CNBC Arabiya, Newsweek, Outlook Traveller, Travel & Leisure, Khaleej Times, Trade Arabia, TTN, Trav Talk India, Publituris, ASTA Network, Breaking Travel News, eTurboNews, Travel Daily News International and Focus on Travel News.

jet2holidays airplane
Jet2 sets sights on Corfu

Plans to fly 30,000 Brits on Corfu holidays. Fast growing airline and holiday company Jet2holidays is to target holidays on Corfu in 2014 with plans to increase holiday visitors by 50%. The tour operator, which is based in the north of England, already flies weekly charters that carry more than 20,000 British holidaymakers to the island of Corfu over the holiday season. After talks last year between Corfu's mayor with officials from Hellenic Island Services, which is the official representative of the company in Corfu, Jet2 plans to boost that number by at least 10,000. The company jet2.com owns 52 aircraft and operates all over the Mediterranean. Over the past three years the firm has earmarked five aircraft to fly to Corfu holiday destinations on a weekly basis from May to September. The aircraft have a seat capacity of 250 and fly from airports across northern England including Manchester, Newcastle, East Midlands, Leeds and Glasgow. This means that Jet2.com now carries more than 20,000 British visitors on holidays to Corfu. Now company bosses plan to add two more aircraft to the weekly schedule. It will take the Corfu holiday target for the 2014 season to more than 30,000, showing the company has great confidence in the Greek island holidays market despite the country's economic problems. The tour operating branch of the company,Jet2holidays.com, was formed four years ago as part of the airline jet2.com. The Jet2holidays.com arm is mainly engaged in selling complete tourist package holidays that include flight and lodging and has experienced rapid growth, doubling its customers each year. This rapid growth has turned Jet2holidays from a minor player in the British holiday market to the third largest tour operator in Britain. Corfu saw a major boost in holiday visitors in 2013, as did many of the Greek Islands. Latest figures from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises) show a double-digit rise for holidaymakers in Corfu with an 11.6% increase on the previous year with 892,202 holiday visitors to the island up to the end of September.

Bruce Willis
Bruce on Corfu

Bruce Willis on Corfu. Holiday visitors to the island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea may soon be rubbing shoulders with even more celebrities. Rumours are rife that American movie star Bruce Willis has bought a summer holiday villa on Corfu island. If true it adds yet another celebrity name to the long list of international stars that opt for the Greek Island when seeking that perfect holiday destination. According to Greek press reports, the actor star of the 'Die Hard' series of movie blockbusters visited Corfu this summer with his wife Emma Heming and their daughter. After a holiday on the island he apparently decided that a property on the Ionian island would make a great away-from-it-all holiday base. He was reported to have bought a luxury villa in the south of Corfu in the area around Kavos. He joins a long list of celebrities who have holiday villas on the Greek islands or who pay regular visits to Greek Island beaches. This year a galaxy of top name celebrities have been spotted on Greek Island beaches including Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson on Anitparos, Harrison Ford on Syros, Cristiano Ronaldo on Crete, Madonna on Ithaca and Leonardo DiCaprio on Paros. Other celebrities taking Greek island holidays this year include Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeremy Irons, Russell Crowe, Naomi Campbell, Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to name just a selection.

Greece rubbish bins
Corfu clean-up

Demands for a Corfu clean-up. Hotel owners on the island of Corfu are demanding a clean-up of island rubbish over fears for Corfu's reputation as a holiday destination. The Federation of Hotel Owners claims the issue of cleanliness is one of the most serious problems facing Corfu today. They have called on the municipality to "take all measures" to clean up public areas, clear rubbish from the streets and empty bins. A statement said: "It is inconceivable that at the peak of the tourist season, Corfu presents the picture of a "dump" and is discredited internationally, while Corfiots entrepreneurs are in really difficult economic conditions and desperately trying to survive and provide guests with the best possible service." Government cutbacks in the recent economic slump have resulted in fewer worker cleaning the streets of Corfu. Holiday visitors can find overflowing bins and rubbish dumped in the street for days before it is cleared away. Corfu hotel owners insist that modern-day tourists expect to find a clean environment when they go on holiday and they want a definitive solution to Corfu's rubbish cleaning problems. They added: "This is the shame not only of our island but also for ourselves and that we allow to our Corfu 'gem' to become a wasteland." The call comes as the island water company DEYAK is forced to ration water supplies as the island faces drought conditions in August. Water supplies are to be turned off between 3am and 5am is a bid to conserved supplies and island visitors have been told to use water sparingly during the day. Water officials say those people living on high ground are expected to face the biggest problems with supplies.

Corfu Achilleion
Corfu palace gets revamp

One of the best known tourist attractions on Corfu, the Achilleion or 'Sissy's Palace' is to get a major makeover. The old palace complex, which attracts thousands of Corfu holiday visitors each year, will get cash to restore and protect all four of its main buildings: the Palace itself, now a museum, the Regiment building, the Baron's building and the Porter's building. Cash will also be given to restore the palace's original main stairway which is considered by experts to be near collapse after years of neglect. The restoration project was announced by Central Council of Modern Monuments along with cash for measures for maintenance and emergency measures to protect the buildings from humidity, corrosion and structural problems. The Achilleion was built in 1889-1892 by Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth (Sissy) and purchased by Kaiser William II of Germany after her death. During and between both world wars the palace was occupied by foreign troops, pillaged of many of its treasure and eventually abandoned. It briefly became a casino before being bought by the state and turned into a museum and the casino scene from the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only (1981), was filmed at the Achilleion. Several rebuilding and restoration projects have helped restore the palace to its former glory and it has now become one of Corfu's major tourist attractions. The palace and gardens are full of neoclassical Greek statues. It boasts particularly fine gardens on the hill look overlooking the surrounding landscape and the Ionian sea. The centrepiece of the gardens is a marble statue of the mortally wounded Achilles wearing a simple cloth and an ancient Greek hoplite helmet.

What Happens In Kavos
Corfu holiday show

Greek anger at Corfu holiday show. A recent TV documentary on the antics of drunken Brits on holiday in Kavos Corfu has come under fire from a Greek tourism minister. The Channel 4 TV programme 'What Happens in Kavos' followed the drunken trail of parties of Brits either working or on holiday in the notorious Corfu party resort. Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni has sent a letter of protest to channel bosses complaining at the poor image of Greece depicted in the Channel 4 show. She said: "Greece, Corfu and the tourism product we offer in any case does not have this repulsive image presented. The show is highly offensive for Greece and its citizens'" Scenes show drunken youngsters cavorting in the resorts clubs and bars as they binge drink on bar hopping tours with sexual promiscuity high on the agenda. Mrs Kefalogianni said she was sure millions of British tourists who go on Greek islands holiday each year would agree with her. She added: "Greece became a global tourist attraction because it is a place that, apart from its natural beauty, embodies universal values and symbols that this show ignores in a provocative way." Kavos is notorious for drunken British louts on bar crawls. As the Greek Island Postcards site says: "Gangs of youths looking for a "larf" give Kavos the hostile air of an English soccer town on match day. Expect shops selling lewd T-shirts, video bars named after TV sitcoms and lager swilling bozos trying to match IQs against sandal sizes." Kavos has at least 80 music bars on the main tourist strip as well as dance clubs and karaoke cafes that go mental from nightfall to sunrise. Visitors complain of 'free shots' mixed with meths to cut costs while Kavos tavernas serve little else than pizzas, burgers, kebab and chips. The secretary of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) pledges to take all 'necessary measures' to restore Greece's image abroad.

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