Aegean Cargo Sailing Captain discusses initiative and ecotourism
ATHENS – Aegean Cargo Sailing, an award-winning company, combines the sustainable carbon-free transport by sailboat of local food products between the Aegean islands with gourmet ecotourism and island tours by sail. Captain Loucas Gourtsoyannis spoke to the National Herald about the initiative.
TNH: How did you get involved in the organization?
Loucas Gourtsoyannis: Well, I had been living on a sailboat for five years when I met Jan Lundberg, who is the man who helped organize sailing transport in the Atlantic. We met in Lavrion and after exchanging ideas we realized we had common ground and while sailing together to promote his project we decided to try and do the first sailing transport tour in the Aegean Sea on my sailboat Pelagos. The cycle was very successful and well received, and the following year due to his health issues he asked me to take over the whole project, which I did. So, since 2018, I have been in charge of the project.
TNH: Where do you see the future of the business?
LG: The company was created in 2019. Due to the success of the operations we had before, this had to be redirected to an official legal structure and that is how we created the company “Istia Aigaiou”. The future of the company is quite promising, in the sense that there is a continuous increase in transport demands for the project and also an increase in demand for tourism on the boat. We combine the transport by sail of fine products with adventure, cultural and gastronomic tourism. This all seems to be changing and what we think will happen in the next couple of years is that there will be enough income mainly from tourism to sustain the business and this will increase over time with a increase in the number of boats; we are aiming for four boats in two years and 16 boats in five years and a very large number of tourists. At this level, we will have a very good system of connecting islands for products, while doing a good dose of sustainable and ethical tourism.
TNH: Are there plans to expand to even more islands?
LG: Expanding to other islands is not very easy because the further you expand, the more time you need to complete a complete tour of the Aegean. Another way to grow would be to have lateral trajectories to other smaller islands, other than the 18 we currently have. We have started to do some of that, but we will still need to increase the number of boats to be able to do a good job. The current schedule of two months for a full tour of the Aegean Sea is necessary to create a stable schedule of loading and unloading on the islands for producers, and we don’t want to extend it to three months or something like that. So most likely we will continue with the 18 islands and whenever we get the chance we will slowly expand – until we have more boats to be able to do that.
TNH: What should you know about Aegean Cargo Sailing?
LG: First of all, we are an eco-inspired company, broadly defined, not only in terms of eliminating carbon emissions from shipping, but also in respecting the environment in our daily routines, avoiding pollution and also avoiding having a heavy footprint when we visit the islands. The other thing is that we only carry quality products. They are either certified bioproducts or they are often products from producers we know that have been produced with deeply ecological methods. The further development of our project aims to help producers, in addition to promoting their products in larger markets, which is happening right now, also guiding them towards more efficient production, maintaining quality and comply with the best rules. for hygiene and food quality.
TNH: What has been the most rewarding aspect of the project so far?
LG: It’s recognition by the whole community! Our idea is always extremely well received by everyone and a large number of people have contacted us, joining our network as producers or as stores wishing to host the products of our producers. In addition, many tourists who have joined our tours in the past are now strong supporters and often promoters of our project. It has wide general acceptance, which is expressed in the coverage of newspapers and television in Greece and abroad and, of course, the great reception of the people we meet. This is therefore the most rewarding aspect!
More information is available online: https://www.sailmed.org/.
Watch the Aegean Cargo Sailing video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/B5hVcgkSah0.