As we say goodbye to 2019, and hello to a new year and a new decade, we also celebrate the anniversary of the going live of our website last January. It’s been a very busy year and a lot has happened on the island during 2019. The island dealt with many things over the twelve months and here are a few of the highlights.
Even before the start of the tourist season, the island was sprinkled in crisp white snow. The normal green hills and sweeping beaches were turned into a picturesque winter wonderland, delighting both residents and tourists from afar. Even though it didn’t last long, it left behind some wonderful images and reminded everyone that even Greek islands get snow occasionally.
A number of famous visitors chose to holiday on the island in 2019, either in resorts or on luxury yachts that toured the ocean before mooring in the harbour.
Some visitors were easily spotted others were more reclusive but it showed how popular the island has become. Some of the yachts were so exclusive they even had helipads! Many of our members had great fun guessing who they may have belonged to!
A story appeared in the Greek press in 2019 requesting help in finding “Zante Girl” a little girl who had been caught up in devastation of the Great Earthquake that hit Zakynthos in 1953. The request came from three sisters on behalf of the former Secretary of State in the United States of America, Mr James A. Baker. After some investigation the Zakynthos Informer, with help from some locals, discovered the identity of Zante Girl – Iovanna Xifita Bythoulka. It was an interesting story and one that captured the hearts of many people worldwide.
Zakynthos on TV
A number of TV programmes aired this year featuring the island from the UK programmes Coach Trip, Club Rep Wars and A Place in the Sun: Home or Away, to the Dutch programme MAX Vandaag Dream House Wanted.
Whilst a few of the programmes showed the less favourable side of Zakynthos featuring on Laganas and reality TV. Others took the time to show the rest of the island, its sites and local traditions, giving viewers a great taste of the “real Zakynthos” repeat visitors know and love.
The popular Korean programme Descendants of the Sun, that filmed a number of scenes on the island including shipwreck bay also aired on Netflix in 2019.
Skywalk – Navagio
A surprise announcement during the summer months revealed public plans to make a new skywalk (viewpoint) on the cliffs at Navagio, along with a new dedicated visitors centre. The plans were greeted with mixed reactions, but we wait for more news, and hope that if it does go ahead it will be in keeping with the area, eventually benefiting everyone.
Awards and celebrations!
A number of island businesses in the hospitality, hotel and travel sectors won awards for their businesses. Lesante Blue and Nefis were two such companies showing that dedication and hard work, whilst respectfully rooting the island pays off.
Nick Kontostavlakis also won two awards at the International Tourism Film Festival for the same film in two categories, the main award – the Grand Prix and first place in the category Tourism Destination – Country.
There we’re also many other celebrations and wins in the Zakynthian sporting world including a double win in bodybuilding!
Sadly however, it wasn’t all positive news in 2019, and as with most summers, the island was affected by wildfires. Unfortunately during the summer Zakynthos saw one of its biggest fires that spread quickly and decimated a large expanse of the Keri/Agalas area. As always the brave and hardworking fire department, joined by colleagues from the mainland, fought incredibly hard to contain and put it out, and no life was lost.
Hercules the Loggerhead Turtle
Another sad piece of news was that the famous Loggerhead turtle Hercules died from extensive injuries caused when being hit by a boat propeller. The incident highlighted the plight of the turtles during the height of the tourist season and what they have to endure when surrounded by endless tour boats. Despite the loss of this beautiful creature it’s hoped that thousands of tourists gained a better understanding of their environment and the respect the creatures should be given when being viewed.
We also reported about the case of the missing British Tourist John Tossell, who went for a walk, whilst holidaying on the island with his partner, and never returned to his hotel. The case perplexed many and to date John is still unaccounted for despite the case being featured on both UK and Greek TV, and a number of specialised searches taking place. Our thoughts remain with John’s partner and wider family and we hope they are able to get some news on what happened or where he is soon.
2019 was a busy, thought provoking and interesting year for so many reasons, and we would not only like to thank our members for their support, but also pay respects to the islands incredible volunteers, many of whom dedicate their time to help with rubbish pick ups and beach cleans as well as looking after the vulnerable island strays.
We would also like to thank the fire department for their continued hard work, during some of the most challenging times of the year.
Finally to everyone who work hard to make our visitors time on the island special. Thank you!
We wish you all a great 2020!