Picturesque Santorini with its spectacular scenery and sunsets has been struggling in the last few years with overtourism. Local authorities plan to cap the number of tourists mainly arriving via cruise ships. According to reports, Santorini will cap the number of daily arrivals at 8,000 as of begin of 2019.
After the decline of cruise tourism in 2011-2012, tourists’ arrivals are increasing every year, breaking one record after another.
The tourist season begins in early spring in March and ends in early winter in December. The turnover is estimated to exceed one billion euros per year.
At peak time, 10,000 to 15,000 tourists arrive with the cruisers on a single day. To these, one should add the thousands of daily visitors arriving via the ferries and the local ships just to watch the sunset. Their number is estimated at 4,000 people.
“We had 3.3 million overnight stays in 2012 and 5.5 million in 2017. There has been an explosive increase in tourism and this is causing problems,” Santorini mayor Nikos Zorzos told media recently.
The infrastructure is under pressure, water consumption has doubled, electricity consumption has immensely increased, there is an “urban-like” traffic problem, new buildings have changes the landscape, while the rapid expansion of Airbnb rentals has doubled the number of beds for tourists, .
The increased arrivals and the extension of the season have also added to a huge production of garbage.
All these problems create also fears that the island might lose its character for quite holidays and affect the services provided to tourists. On specific days of cruisers arrivals the island is literally “overcrowded.”
Already beginning of 2018, local authorities imposed a specific arrivals & departures program for cruise ships but this was apparently not enough.
While 406 cruise ships were registered in 2017, their number increased by 10% in 2018, with 439 registrations. For the first time, there were also 25 registrations for overnight docking. In January 2018, already 451 cruise ships had registered for 2019.
“In an effort to reduce the amount of garbage on the Greek island of Santorini, island officials are looking to impose limits on cruise arrivals,” The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
US travel website TravelPulse asked three Greece specialists about the pollution problem on Santorini and whether the proposed limits are a good idea.
“Litter will always be an issue in Greece, and in other countries during the summer months when the tourists are flocking to and fro,” said George Andritsakis, a senior travel consultant with AAA who is based in Clearfield, Utah. “The cleanup and disposal falls directly on the shoulders of the local government.”
“I am not surprised that the mayor wants to limit tourists and I think that putting some limits on the number of visitors is essential if Santorini is to be enjoyed by vacationers and tourists in the future,” said Alex Scipione of Alex’s Adventures in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. “That being said, this is not an easy thing to do considering the demand and also not wanting to drive people away.”
“If the local government wants to take action, they should also target the ferries and airline arrivals as well,” said Andritsakis, noting that he thinks it’s the people who are on the island for a longer duration than cruisers who are the real problem, as far as garbage accumulation goes.
Jolie Goldring, a luxury travel consultant with In the Know Experiences in New York City, told TravelPulse “Santorini has always seen viewed as a honeymoon must-visit or uber romantic spot for couples.”
Although Santorini and other parts of the country may have issues of pollution and overcrowding, agents like Andritsakis told TravelPulse it hasn’t cost them any business.
According to The Wall Street Journal report, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says cruises contributed $626 million to the Greek economy last year, with around 15 percent going to Santorini.