The winners of the latest Blue Flag awards for the best-kept beaches in the world have recently been announced. This program includes beaches in Europe, South Africa, North Africa, New Zealand, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
The Blue Flag is perhaps the clearest indication of the environmental health of a beach. It is a source of pride for any winner. Since 1987, the program’s strict criteria have ranked beaches according to a set of guidelines that include water quality, cleanliness, organization, visitor safety, and environmental awareness.
An entirely voluntary program, the awards are handed out on an annual basis with the aim of improving the sustainability of beaches all over the world. Covering 63 countries and spanning the globe, the Blue Flag award is the clearest indicator of a world-class beach and coastal environment. The Blue Flag is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a non-governmental, non-profit organisation. FEE is a fully independent organisation that liaises with environmental agencies all over the world to promote the best beaches on the planet.
A commercial incentive
The competition for nominations is often fierce. In view of the vast income from tourism that many countries enjoy, a healthy beachfront can be worth a considerable amount of money. As a result, governments and NGOs the world over are often willing to invest in the improvement of their beaches in order to qualify for a Blue Flag. While the interests are often commercial in nature, the environment does benefit demonstrably, and this is something to be lauded. This year, Spain had the most Blue Flag certified beaches, followed by Turkey. Greece came in third place. Spain and Turkey have long ranked first and second, but Greece has recently captured third place, owing to its sustained effort to improve the quality of the country’s coastline and touristic amenities, with a focus on eco-friendly development.