Tourism in Greece: curse or blessing?
The large number of tourists poses numerous challenges for Greece’s society: high rents, closures of traditional businesses, the disappearance of sensitive biotopes. Tourism plays a key role in the country’s economy and the demand seems unlimited. But to what extent can it be allowed to change local structures? A look at the press suggests a tipping point has been reached.
Preserve Athens’s unique character
Kathimerini voices concern about the impact of tourism on Greece’s capital:
“How can we prevent the homogenisation that is destroying all that is special about the city? How can we ensure that the Barcelona phenomenon is not repeated here, and that young people and families can live in Athens’ neighbourhoods? How will we tackle the traffic problem, which is deterioriating rapidly? All this requires foresight, research, planning and timely prevention. We have won one bet. The city has come back to life when everyone thought it was a zombie. The next bet is to change it only with careful deliberation and planning from now on.”
From paradise to hell
The Cyclades Open website sheds light on the dark side of tourism:
“Environmental resources are under pressure. Residents can no longer tolerate the way the real estate market threatens to spoil the landscape and beauty of tourist destinations. ... Islanders (teachers, students, casual workers) are being forced to leave their homes by Airbnb. Those who stay give up their walks in the centre and wait for the island to empty once more so they can enjoy the place they live once again. It seems that tourism beyond a certain growth threshold does not improve the quality of life of the locals but rather worsens it, turning the destination from a paradise into a hell.”
Mass tourism is robbing Greek holiday destinations of their unique character, complains Corfu-based author Richard Pine in The Irish Times:
“A recent study warned that Athens has reached saturation point — in this case, due to the explosion of Airbnb availability which has increased by 500 per cent in the past seven years. ... We are told that 20 per cent of the national workforce are employed in tourism, but in hotspots like Corfu, Mykonos and Santorini, almost everyone, from grannies to small kids, are drafted into some aspect of tourism. ... Without tourism, which contributes in excess of 25 per cent of gross domestic product, Greece would be dead economically. With tourism, it is in danger of social and cultural death.”