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Greece must reform to protect tourism, ombudsman says

Greece needs to reduce rampant construction and protect water resources and coastal areas if it wants to maintain a healthy tourism industry across its mountainous mainland and beach-lined islands, the country’s ombudsman said in a report on Thursday.

Some 33 million people visited Greece in 2023, 5 million more than a year earlier, drawn by its ancient archaeological sites, turquoise Mediterranean waters and reliably sunny weather.

But in a report released on Thursday, the ombudsman warned of the growing environmental risks and called for urgent reform.

“Our country’s economy relies heavily on tourism which makes the need to manage it in a sustainable way even more urgent,” the report said. Greece must not “exhaust its potential, wasting it and making our tourist destinations unattractive over time”.

Tourism accounts for over a quarter of economic output and nearly 2 million Greeks’ annual income derives from the sector, said the report, the first on the sector for the Greek Ombudsman since the authority was founded over 25 years ago.

Revenues are expected to rise to 21 billion in 2024 from 20.5 billion last year – a boon for an economy emerging from a decade-long debt crisis.

Social media favourite Santorini – a small island with 15,550 residents – receives more than 5.5 million visitors annually, twice the number it hosted in 2012, the report said. The island contributes 1 billion euros in annual receipts.

“In Santorini, even tourists complain about the great number of tourists,” the report said.

It called for greater regulation to reduce coastal construction and slow the felling of forests which was creating the right conditions for flooding. It also called for greater care of water resources in the face of “huge” requirements for drinking water, swimming pools and water parks.

“Tourism is a field where the lack of vision and strategy emerges with particular intensity. The exercise of a clear tourism governance is an immense need,” the report said.

[Reuters]

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8 comments

  1. very big problem down here in the islands. the municipality is drilling FOUR more wells to simply deplete the aquifer even faster, while installing super-expensive desalination units and loading the costs on everyone pretty much _except_ the tourism industry – households are getting a doubling of rates, businesses, even small and completely unrelated to tourism businesses, a quadrupling or more of rates… why? because the mega hotels cant stop filling swimming pools , watering enormous lawns, and ultimately, having 3 to 4 times over the local population, amount of tourists at any given time (we are 20 thousand, but in high season there are 60-80 thousand tourists at a time on the island!) , all of them using water with no mind to conservation.. the island always had enough water even in a bad dry spell, but with this rapacious industry nothing is ever enough!
    we need to put a strict limit on the number of tourist beds on the island to at least never exceed the local population, and a total ban on swimming pools and decorative lawns etc being watered from town water or from wells – only winter rainwater if they care to invest in catchment and storage.

    • You are so right, a.citizen! WHY construct swimingpools containing chemically purified sweet water when you have the see and lovely beaches?? Salty water is much better for your skin and the chemicals only damage it, contains a lot of bacterias and make you sick! And, first and foremost, it drains the sweet water sources that are so few!

  2. I am a turist myself and I come to Greece because of the culture, the lovely landscape and the “filoxsenia” (forgive me if I spelled it wrong!) You greeks are such a friendly people, you greet everyone with joy and that is hard to find nowadays!
    So, please, you must protect all the values that you have! To just expand the hotels, the beachbars and so forth will kill the special feeling of just Greece!! Try to withhold the special culture, food and everything else that is so much Greece! Because that is what most turists come for, if you loose that then you will loose the tourists, in the long run! Fast income, yes, but it will cost you! Just look at Venice, Barcelona, Lisbon and Palma de Mallorca, they are finally dicovering the costs of uncontrolled turist expansion! See and learn now, before Greece ends up in a similar way!!!

  3. We visit the island of kefalonia each year and always respect the local commodities. But we are amazed at the fact most new apartments have not a shared swimming pool but one plunge pool for each apartment and the latest must have seems to be hot tubs and the fact your in a country where the sun shines at 30 degrees and the waters are warm lovely blue and crystal clear surely these are extras that are not needed and are only fitted to be able too charge extra prices to increase profit. This I understand but whatever happened to SIMPLY GREECE where we visited to soak up the sun and atmosphere not have all the fancy gadgets and latest inventions don’t make apartments where the customer doesn’t want to go out and explore the local culture eat at the local tavernas etc this all contributes to the local economy. . You came to Greece to get away from the fast lifestyle years ago but things are changing.

  4. Over the last 2/3 years we have heard about the extended tourist season that is being implemented.
    Affectivity most people come to Greece for weather and the greek culture , they usually come because their weather is different colder usually. They would come to Greece any time between mid may to November and would have a great time .
    But nothing is properly open, where I live beach facilities and tavernas literally opened a week ago .
    To ease tourism pressure, and environmental concerns,simply extend the tourism season properly so the people who are coming can enjoy their holiday and not go back and say nothing is open.
    That sadly involves Greeks dropping the last minute.com attitude and being proactive, therefore the future is not bright because it’s far easier to blame the tourists until they start complaining and don’t come, that is a big problem as 20% of GDP comes from tourists, and that figure doesn’t include the million or so returnees with dual nationality.

  5. “The Greek government has earmarked $420 million from its National Recovery and Resilience Facility funds for the tourism sector, ”
    Really where has that money gone ? Has it gone on developing areas of ,for instance , parts of the south Peloponnese which has beauty equal to any island , and would help alleviate environmental pressure on hotspots which are under pressure. Sadly no it’s evaporated into the ether , a reacoring theme unique to banana republics.
    I believe that Greece depends on personal greed to drive it’s tourism sector, quite frankly , it’s far to important to the economy to leave its development to tourism gangsters and dirty money cartels , the government need to make it function properly, and for the people.

  6. The article cites a statistic from the ombudsman’s report that appears to be misleading in the report. Santorini apparently has 5.5 million overnights per year, not 5.5 million visitors. Credible sources put the number of visitors at just over 2 million per year. That’s still a heavy load, but nothing like 5.5 million visitors (which would mean 15,000 average arrivals every day of the year.

  7. As long as ‘big money’ is involved in the tourist industry, overcrowdiing, water shortages etc will proliferate. Local councils don’t seem willing or able to ‘refuse a good offer’ and there appears to be no oversight of what they do.