Athens Tourism Not Viable, Claims Mayor

Tourism in Greece no longer viable, says Athens mayor.
Tourism in Greece no longer viable, says Athens mayor. Credit: nparekhcards. CC BY 2.0/flickr

The Mayor of Athens has claimed that tourism in Greece just isn’t viable anymore, as each traveler only contributes about 0.40 euros to the local economy.

Overtourism in Athens

Athens is a monumentally fascinating city for culture vultures and anybody who appreciates history and great food. However, in recent times, the city has begun to suffer from impossibly high tourism numbers.

Authorities in Athens have already voiced concerns over this seemingly exponential rise in tourist numbers, as crowds have become unmanageable. To stop the onslaught and bring some control to Athens, the city capped the number of tourists who could visit the Acropolis to 20,000 last year. Tourists amass in Greece even after the summertime.

Greece’s tourism sector

Tourism is challenging for Greece. The number of visitors has surged massively out of control, increasing by 120 percent between 2019 and 2023. However, because the country draws 25 to 30 percent of its GDP from tourist activities, with that number increasing to 90 percent on the island of Santorini, saying no is difficult.

The challenge of too many visitors and the impact that has on local communities and the city itself means that tourism in its current form is not sustainable, Athens’s Mayor Harris Doukas told Fortune.

“Each visitor brings 0.40 euros to the city, and we haven’t seen this money yet,” Doukas told Euronews. “We need to find a way to make tourism viable.”

Last year, around 33 million tourists came to Greece. This is more than three times the country’s population. A higher number of tourists, of course, means there will be economic benefits, particularly for local businesses, but it also results in a severe strain on infrastructure, housing, and environmental resources. These factors are specifically difficult, as Greece has been wrestling with the aftermath of wildfires in recent years.

“It turns out that the pressures exerted by tourism on the environment are linked to the change of land uses (due to the creation of new infrastructure and other facilities for tourist use), and specifically with the expansion of the urban environment at the expense of the natural,” a government report on sustainable tourism found as part of a broader effort to change Greece’s approach towards tourism.

Earlier this year, Greece brought in a “climate crisis resilience tax,” which aims to raise money that can help it tackle natural disasters by charging visitors through their hotel bills.
Because of its strong relationship with the tourism and hospitality industries, Greece has made efforts to manage its visitors with lots of different measures, including extending the tourist season to a longer period and fining beach-loving vacationers who take up too much space.

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