Is Overtourism Ruining Greek Beaches?

overtourism greece greek beaches
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, one of the many Greek beaches that has experienced overtourism. Credit: Dronepicr/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Greek beaches are renowned across the world for their beauty, but many locals and tourists claim that overtourism is ruining the country’s most popular summer destinations.

Social media users from across the planet likely know about some of the most popular Greek beaches, such as Navagio Beach on Zakynthos or Balos Beach on Crete, even if they’ve never visited the country.

That’s because these scenic locales, which are unlike any other beaches found across the world, have become famous on social media platforms, like Instagram.

This popularity has contributed to the waves of tourists who visit the country every year, and locations that were once not well-known have since become internationally famous due to social media posts.

Overtourism to blame for crowding in Greece?

Overtourism refers to overcrowding caused by a massive amount of tourists visiting a place at one time, and it usually leads to difficulties for locals. The phenomenon has been recorded across the world, as well as in many areas of Greece during the summer months.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

In Venice, for example, hordes of tourists were crowding the city’s small streets, rendering the city nearly unlivable for locals. The Italian government has even attempted to slow the influx of tourists to the city by discouraging day trips or one-day stays in the city, hopefully reducing congestion.

Overtourism is often a particularly difficult issue to tackle, as many of the countries that experience the phenomenon also rely heavily on tourists economically, like Greece.

Many locals, although disgruntled by the negative impacts of the phenomenon, are hesitant to speak out or implement changes to fight overtourism due to fears of losing business, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, which was disastrous for the sector.

Yet, the impact of phenomenon on Greek beaches is massive and could lead to long-lasting negative effects on the country.

As many note, while overtourism may lead to short-term economic boons, its negative impacts could end up hurting tourism in the country. For example, overcrowding at beaches could lead to destruction of local nature and wildlife, overdevelopment in the area, and loud noise, all of which may drive tourists off in the future.

Sustainable tourism, which seeks to prevent overcrowding in popular destinations, reduce the negative environmental impacts of tourism, and increase knowledge of a country’s culture and history, is often touted as an alternative to current trends in tourism.

Tourists lament impacts of overtourism on Greek beaches

Many islands and popular summer destinations, including once serene, calm beaches with few crowds have been transformed, becoming noisy, overcrowded beaches full of people and boats anchored along the coast.

Even tourists who visit Greece have begun to complain about overcrowding on Greek beaches, with many of their negative reviews on tourism sites such as TripAdvisor going viral in Greece.

One user claimed that the water and sand at Balos Beach, perhaps the most famous beach on Crete, was full of oil from boats anchored along the shore and claimed that the experience turned them away from the island forever.

“Never again in Crete,” they wrote.

Navagio Beach in Zakynthos, which is a popular location for photo shoots for social media due to the shipwreck located along the shore, also received negative reviews.

“Dirty and overrated place. There are so many other amazing places on the island. It is always crowded and not worth staying there,” a user wrote on TripAdvisor.

Many tourists and Greeks alike seek out the country’s beautiful beaches for peace and relaxation, but overtourism has made many places chaotic and overwhelming.

Pollution from sunscreen and litter from plastic has also hurt the country’s marine life and countless significant ecosystems.

While the problems surrounding overtourism are clear, the solutions are less simple, particularly in a country where tourism makes up a significant portion of the GDP.

In recent years, while coronavirus has been catastrophic for tourism in Greece, the pandemic has also lead many Greeks to rediscover and admire popular sites without the crowds.

This year, since pandemic restrictions in the country have been lifted and the tourism season has begun, many Greek beaches may face an even larger influx of tourists than seen in pre-pandemic years.

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