Concerns that Corfu's rubbish 'nightmare' could spoil summer holidays
Holidaymakers heading to Corfu this summer are concerned that their trips could be ruined by the island’s mounting rubbish crisis.
There have been rumours that tour operators were offering alternative resort arrangements after travellers to the Mediterranean island complained of mountains of uncollected waste littering the roadsides, unpleasant smells and swarms of flies.
Corfu has long had issues with waste management, with its main landfill site full and declared illegal by the EU and authorities struggling to find a replacement, but peak seasons appears to have exacerbated the situation.
Last week, locals marched on the town hall to protest against EU plans to open a new landfill site in Lefkimmi, to relieve pressure on the overflowing site at Temploni. Crowds chanted “enough is enough” and held signs that said: “Stinky holidays”. Riot police were called in after locals blocked the paths of bin lorries.
It is understood tour operators, including Thomas Cook and Tui, have put pressure on the Corfu government to resolve the situation before the tourists arrive in earnest in July. As much as 4,000 tonnes of household waste has been piling up across the island. The local government has been in talks with Athens to ship rubbish off the island.
Holidaymakers on a discussion board on TripAdvisor said that Thomas Cook was offering visitors the chance to change their flights to an alternative destination, something the operator denied. Other travellers said that the situation is much improved compared to earlier in June.
One travel agent reported that customers had cut short their trip as they not seen a refuse problem “on this scale” in Corfu, according to Travel Weekly.
A spokesperson for Tui said that the operator had been told by the Greek tourism minister that the situation was being dealt with and will be resolved shortly, adding that none of its holidays had been affected.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said no holidays had been cancelled and that it hadn’t received calls from concerned customers, but had received one query on Twitter.
“Customers currently on holiday are not being impacted and tour operators are being kept informed on actions being taken in resort and the mayor’s plans to remove rubbish from the streets and longer terms plans for resolution,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”
The customer on Twitter, with a week booked in Corfu this weekend, had contacted Thomas Cook with concerns about a “serious rubbish problem”. A member of the customer service team told the customers she was not aware of any complaints.
Abta, the British association of travel agents and tour operators, is in touch with Greek authorities over the issue.
At the end of June, Greek minister for the interior Panos Skourletis said the situation in Corfu is “a nightmare… and… not just a recent phenomenon”, adding that the Lefkimmi site is the solution.
“We have seen the situation intensifying and threatening the local economy and jobs.”
In 2015 Greek authorities were referred to the EU Court of Justice over its poor waste management on Corfu – the charge related to the landfill site at Temploni. A survey in 2014 counted 16 illegal landfill sites operating on Greek islands.
Telegraph Travel’s Corfu expert, Marc Dublin, said that the mountains of uncollected rubbish has been “an enduring blot on the landscape for several years now”.
“The EU has declared the main Corfu landfill to be illegal, although it is still used surreptitiously if only occasionally,” he said. “Villages approached for the ‘honour’ of hosting a new, compliant landfill on their territory have resorted to nimbyism, with the result that a surpassingly beautiful island drowns in garbage for the foreseeable future. Despite that, the old quarters of the east-coast capital, Corfu Town, have been designated a Unesco heritage site.”