In December 2023, the Construction Service of the Municipality of Chania gave the green light for building the new 400-room Ikos Kissamos luxury 5-star hotel/resort on the bayfront in the Western Crete seaside town.
Launched by the Sani/Ikos Group in Kissamos, Chania, the budget for the construction of the new resort will be €125 million. According to the news, the new property will open its doors in the Spring of 2025. However, there are concerns that the hotel, bungalows, and villas stretched out across 600 meters of pristine beaches may not be as desirable as developers expect.
The new resort will reportedly have an area of over 203,000 sq.m., just outside the Agios Antonios Kallergianon settlement. One problem detractors of the project voice is the drastic impact such a project will have on the local character and charm of Kissamos. In particular, the relatively untouched Livadia Beach will certainly lose much of its charm as a traditional Greek holiday area. What was a quiet and peaceful stretch of beach with a few small hotels and tavernas will soon become just another buffet line for the all-inclusive set from the rest of Europe.
Kissamos, which is in the far West of Crete island, is one of the few large villages on the North seafront that retains its Cretan character. A quote from Cretan Beaches sums up what is about to disappear:
“[livadia Beach] …It is not very well organized, but there are a few points with umbrellas, small hotels and restaurants. Due to its length, it always seems empty. It is a good choice on windless days and for those who want to find a quiet place to swim but close to city amenities.”
It’s a strange irony that I wrote an article about regenerative tourism/business on Crete in December. As one friend in the know recently put it, there does not seem to be any cohesive plan for Crete. Here, the government and the public just seem to drift hither and to depending on where the money is. And sometimes, everyone gravitates toward the worst possible ideas and projects. At a point, German interests said that TUI and other entities should turn Crete into Europe’s Florida. And this seems like the only real plan.
Ikos Kissamos was billed as “the first hotel complex under the Ikos Resorts brand in Crete,” which probably means the group intends to build more. In fact, the investor relations page of their website says as much. Under the brand names Sani Resort and Ikos Resorts, the Sani/Ikos Group develops, owns and operates over 3,450 rooms and suites at 12 unique resorts in Greece and Spain. In fairness, the Ikos resorts are lavish and among the most luxurious, lining the coastlines of Greece and Spain. And the hotels are relatively cheap too. For instance, 5 days and four nights during April at Ikos Aria runs about €844 per person, all-inclusive.
The big question is, “How many such resorts will we allow to be built before we reach a point of no return?” Not only is such unbridled development unsustainable, but it’s also light years away from being anything like regenerative tourism or economics. The answer to the question is not what most hospitality companies want to hear. An Institute of Current World Affairs report by Steven Tagle framed several of the problems Crete and other destinations face:
“Tourism is a fickle industry with unintended, far-reaching effects on local communities from rent hikes and overcrowding to threats to natural environments and even Greeks’ ability to enjoy a beach or summer on the islands.”
In the same report, Vice Governor Kotsoglou was quoted saying the regional government is pursuing a policy of expansionism, opening up the “space, time and type of tourism” on Crete. Kotsoglou went on to sugarcoat what amounts to a massive expansion of sea and sun space in places like Kissamos, in Lassithi, and along the pristine Southern coasts.
The sugar coating is made up of promises to send more people to the inland villages for year-round fun. So far, all we see in these villages is an exodus of young people seeking higher wages in mainland Europe. Crete’s traditional culture is dying, and the villages that are the last holdouts are becoming ghost towns.
Finally, the International Journal of Global Sustainability outlined recently the potential catastrophe facing Crete Island. The following synopsis from Macrothink Institute tells the tale:
“The island of Crete is an attractive and popular tourist destination in the Eastern Mediterranean basin and it is currently ranked among the ten most overcrowded EU tourism NUTS-2 regions. This fact could threaten and harm the fragile natural ecosystems in the island resulting in the decline of the prosperous tourism industry in the future.”
The future. It seems that there is no hotel developer, no investment group out there truly considering what long-term investment means, let alone regenerative economics (which I’ve discussed before). The law of investing and development in Crete and Greece is to keep going until it’s all used up as long as there’s profit. It’s high time these financiers and land moguls reboot their understanding of real, meaningful profit.