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Alternative Kerkyra Meeting 17 February

February 18, 2013
Alternative Corfu

First meeting, 17 February 2013

The meeting was a big success! More than 120 people came and participated in the discussions. Many subjects were discussed (in a fairly chaotic way!), both in the seminar room and later on by the benches with local products kindly offered by the attending producers, but I will try to give a summary of the main points raised. You will find more photos of the event on the Alternative Kerkyra website.

In general, we tried to keep the conversation from turning into a series of complaints about what the politicians/municipality/state could or should have done and to keep the focus on what we can do in the future.

We all agreed that local products and alternative forms of tourism go well together and can reinforce one another, that hard work will be needed to move forward and that networking is essential, both amongst ourselves and to the outside world.

Local products

A lot of the discussions were about local products. Those can be divided into two categories: Stuff that is cultivated and consumed directly such as vegetables and fruits, and stuff that is actually produced, such as olive oil, wine, delicatessen, handicrafts and more.

Quality

Producers of local products should focus on “pleasure” consumers, who consume quality products for their pleasure and who are looking for high-quality products for a fair price. This fair price can be quite high and gets higher as the product is better marketed. The price-quality relationship is very important. The quality of local products is usually quite high, but there needs to be some mechanism for administering quality controls. This mechanism could be peer control, meaning that all local producers should have their businesses open to visitors. This way, everyone can see for themselves how something is produced. The aim for Corfiot producers must be to create only top quality stuff. Low quality products can destroy the image of the island and have done their share in the past years.

Packaging

Although there are many high-quality products, a big problem for Corfiot producers is that there are very few standardization and packaging facilities on the island. If high quality Corfiot products could be packaged here and sold either on the island or even abroad, local producers could earn a much better living. Such packaging facilities exist for olive oil, wine, honey etc but need to be expanded.

A related problem is that fact that most producers on Corfu own relatively small plots of land and as a result have a small production. Several producers would need to cooperate to support a packaging facility, something that is not easy due to bad experiences from the past.

Sales

Sales is another area that needs improvement. All participants are convinced that there is a market for all those products. First of all, many local products could be sold on Corfu, either to restaurants and hotels or to consumers directly. We agreed that it is much better to feed our visitors good local products that cheap products from China. And we are convinced that a great part of our visitors (or the visitors we want to have) are willing to pay a little more for that. Secondly, if there’s a high enough volume, some products could be exported. Corfu is a strong brand name and this will help sell local products easier. The other way around, high-quality Corfiot products on shelves abroad can reinforce Corfu’s brand name and even help rebrand Corfu as a green destination.

Corfiot producers network

There is a network of Corfu producers (http://www.corfiotproducers.com/) with 13 members (several of whom were present at the meeting), that has been very active in promoting local products across Greece and abroad. Of course there are many more producers on Corfu who are not part of this network. The network has strict rules for accepting new members but is open to more producers joining the group. They have already been trying to get hotels and restaurants to serve local products, are promoting the Greek breakfast as an alternative to English or Continental breakfast and are organising events to promote local products the whole year round.

Organic

A subject that was only briefly mentioned is that of organic products. There is a worldwide trend towards organic farming and organic products and on Corfu there are more and more young people who want to turn to organic farming and this is only going to grow more as unemployment rises and people try to find new ways to make a living. People are also trying to preserve and promote old local seeds and varieties to substitute the hybrid and genetically modified seeds.

Alternative tourism

Alternative tourism meetingAs far as alternative tourism is concerned, we agreed that footpaths around Corfu, such as the Corfu Trail, need to be maintained and better signposted. Also, more footpaths could be cleared and signposted by local villagers, following the example of the Arillas trail.

Agrotourism has great potential for development but there are still no legal rules about what IS agrotourism and how it can be exploited and developed. This makes it very difficult for existing agrotouristic ventures to survive and also for new people to invest in new projects.

Gastronomic tourism or gastrotourism is another form of tourism that could fit perfectly with local products and bring some high-end customers to Corfu.

Fishing tourism in combination with the creation of one or more marine parks with limitations on fishing was mentioned as a way to help fishermen increase their income. In essence they would fish less and act more as guides to visitors who want to fish, dive, and get to know our marine environment.

Promotion

Traditionally, the official promotion of Corfu has been based on sending delegations to tourism fairs abroad. The internet is the new marketplace and online advertising is a much cheaper and more effective way of advertising. Each individual company should have a decent website, whether selling products, services, accommodation or anything else. Specialised portals such as Green Corfu can bundle different initiatives to create a different image of Corfu. Social media are also becoming more and more important.

What do we do from now on?

It was agreed that this was a very good initiative and should not finish here. We have the emails of all participants and are going to set up a forum on http://www.alternativekerkyra.gr where people can discuss on specific subjects. We hope that out of the forum discussions, task groups will be formed that will meet in the real world to find solutions to specific issues. We will also set up an Alternative Kerkyra profile on Facebook and will create a mailing list to keep everyone up to date. The next meeting will be in English and will probably be somewhere in March.

We would like to thank all participants and if anyone thinks we forgot to mention something, please let us know so we can update this document.

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