Overtourism: This year Greece is attracting more than twice the 15m tourists who visited in 2010
Greece will welcome a record 32 million foreign travellers this year – that’s more than twice the 15 million tourists who visited in 2010.
It’s the only European destination this decade which has seen such an overwhelming surge in visitor numbers.
There’s no denying tourism has greatly helped Greece and its struggling economy – it’s helped buoy the country up when it came close to euro ejection.
It’s provided a quarter of Greek residents with jobs and is the nation’s biggest foreign currency earner.
But such rapid growth is starting to take its toll – could the country be suffering from too much success?
In previous months there has been tension between locals and visitors across Europe, from tourist segregation in Venice (and a ban on takeaway stores opening in the city) to a cull on boozy bike tours in Amsterdam.
Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Madrid, Mallorca have also seen their share of the woes of overtourism. Is Greece next?
Greek politician and environmentalist, Nikos Chrysogelos, believes so, and told the Guardian: “We can’t keep having more and more tourists.
“We can’t have small islands, with small communities, hosting one million tourists over a few months.
“There’s a danger of the infrastructure not being prepared, of it all becoming a huge boomerang if we only focus on numbers and don’t look at developing a more sustainable model of tourism.”
Overtourism: Visitors are particularly draw to Santorini and its stunning scenery
A growing majority of tourists now come from Asia after direct flights between Athens and Beijing were launched last September.
Many from the newly wealthy Asian middle classes are travelling to Greece to get married or renew vows, drawn by its picturesque scenery.
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) says it is aware of the potential for problems.
According to the Guardian, the GNTO states that the country’s policy “dictates not moving beyond the carrying capacity of the environment” by focussing on the “extension of the summer tourism season and the development of thematic tourism which attracts visitors all year round.”
Santorini is the Greek island which feels the crush the most. An incredible 5.5million overnight stays were recorded on the idyllic island last year.
Overtourism: 5.5million overnight says were recorded on Santorini last year
Traffic jams and overcrowding are a growing problem, not to mention water and energy consumption.
In 2017, the mayor of Santorini, Nikos Zorzos, was forced to curb cruise-ship passengers disembarking daily to 8,000 people.
Greek capital Athens is also hugely popular with tourists and, like Santorini, is a hot spot for cruise lines. More than one million passengers use its port Piraeus each year.
Visitors looking to avoid hordes of tourists should consider travelling in spring, autumn and winter,
It’s also well worth avoiding the most-hyped islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Crete and heading off the (very) beaten path.