Stress test for the Greek islands is hypertourism
“Sunk” in August – Hypertourism threatens the character and in the long run the economy of many destinations
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Does Greece need more visitors or does it need visitors who can leave more added value? (Photo SHUTTERSTOCK)
Elias Bellos
13.09.2021 • 15:26

This summer, visitors to many islands were surprised to find that when they arrived in July for their vacation in their favorite destinations, beaches, taverns, cafes and favorite corners that they used to enjoy were full of people.

Those who traveled later, in August, were confronted with islands that had exceeded the limits of their carrying capacity: endless queues of cars and traffic in Santorini, lack of parking spaces and sometimes water on Patmos, queues at taverns in Tzos, Tzos ports of Paros and Santorini, cramped alleys in Chora on Patmos and Oia in Santorini, cleanliness issues everywhere, temporary power outages on some islands, unpleasant odors from sewage in most and water shortages.

Read more: The travel traffic in Paros is twice its endurance

And yet, in recent years some investments have been made in desalination, power generation or interconnection and some basic infrastructure. However, this year’s boom in tourism and the gathering of millions of tourists from abroad, who were able to travel from the beginning of July onwards to a few dozen Aegean islands, served as a stress test for Greek hospitality and top destinations. And most islands did not pass this stress test. Aggravated for years now, for example, Santorini, due to over-tourism, saw passenger air arrivals move 5% higher than the 2019 levels in August, when they had reached record levels. But how many people can now fit in the alleys of Fira and Oia? And how many people can have their drink at night in Chora square in Patmos?

The tough questions
Despite the pandemic and the measures, the congestion in Paros, Naxos, Tzia, Patmos, Santorini, Mykonos, but also elsewhere, was intense and continuous, and brings the country, the inhabitants and the people who deal with it. tourism faced with tough questions: does Greece need more visitors or does it need visitors who can leave more added value? And if the answer is the second, can Greek tourism achieve this without immediate improvement of infrastructure and services? Roads, marinas, non-private airports, parking lots, water supply, waste management, power generation and even port infrastructure are affected. And finally they destroy the experience for the visitors, but also for the residents. Yes, the thirst for liquidity that tourism brought this year was justified after the crisis of the pandemic that shook the industry worldwide in 2020, but even the most short-sighted realize that 150,000 people can not fit in Paros or 30,000 in Patmos. That is ten times the number of permanent residents. How can Naxos not be served by port from a pier that can accommodate a single ship, nor can the cars of the vacationers be parked in queues for kilometers around the settlements of the islands.

Take Serifos for example. Doll Serifos, you understand it from the moment the ship approaches the port, when you face its Chora, with the white houses perched high, and below Livadi, picturesque, with its shops and a wonderful beach of its own, Avlomonas. Somewhere there, on the edge of Avlomonas, hides the first problem of the island, which makes its presence felt as soon as it blows south or apnea prevails: an unpleasant smell from the biological treatment, which definitely needs repair, if it does not work at all as organic. An infrastructure project with EU money, which was problematic from the beginning. Like the marina, which was recently built, initially causing excitement among yachting fans, but then was left to its fate, with the result that neither the planned services are provided nor the municipality has any revenue. Like the water tank, built years ago now, but without the accompanying works for its utilization, as a result of which it serves at best for irrigation of the surrounding area (it just opens the dam) and usually as a nice wetland. And this year the island was short of water. Doll Serifos, but especially in August parking is nowhere to be found in Livadi and Chora, and the traffic jam reminds of breakfast on Kifissou Avenue with an accident!

Let’s take a look at Jia’s case. Jia is without a doubt one of the most up-and-coming tourist islands, in fact so close to Athens. It was this proximity that helped the island not to get “strapatso” in 2020 – in the coronavirus crisis – and to be drowned by tourists this summer. The island has many thousands of holiday homes of Athenians, but also Europeans, who choose it because it is an hour and a half from the airport “El. Venizelos “.

Random infrastructure
But while thousands of new homes have been built and every weekend from Easter to November the island is flooded with tourism, its infrastructure remains rudimentary. The road network is mostly dirt, the water reaches most of the houses by tank, the biological treatment (which was previously on one of the busiest beaches of the island) has been transferred but remains unfinished, the dozens of boats approaching on weekends have not where to tie and the rubbish generated by the ever-increasing tourist arrivals overflows – especially in July and August. In fact, a large tourist investment is underway on the island – on the beach of Vroskopou – which will bring thousands of people every summer, but no predictions have been made for future improvement of the infrastructure, which as things go will soon “drive away” tourists. from the image of supersaturation.

But let’s see what was happening in Naxos as well. In Naxos, especially on weekends, until mid-August, the road to the port resembled rush hours on the main streets of Athens, with the port authority suggesting a “blockade” of the coastal road for those who did not travel or did not provide catering and emergency services. The inseparable prevailed, of course, in the most famous taverns of the island, where gaps were sought for reservations in depth of 4-5 days, while the phones did not stop ringing for a minute. Queues of those who were unlucky or unpredictable were a daily occurrence, against the backdrop of waiters running their shifts non-stop. “This year we did not find anything personal”, was the constant complaint on the lips of all owners.

What does the tourism business world say about all this? The country has the guarantees to make one of the fastest rebounds in tourism, provided, however, that investments will continue to be made, both in hotel complexes and public infrastructure, as well as in new sales and operation models. This emerges from a survey conducted by DHR Services with the support of Metron Analysis on 59 top executives of the hospitality ecosystem in Greece and abroad, and which was presented by “K” earlier this year.

What does the tourism business world say about all this? The country has the guarantees to make one of the fastest rebounds in tourism, provided, however, that investments will continue to be made, both in hotel complexes and public infrastructure, as well as in new sales and operation models. This emerges from a survey conducted by DHR Services with the support of Metron Analysis on 59 top executives of the hospitality ecosystem in Greece and abroad, and which was presented by “K” earlier this year.

“Strategy change”
Greece, a leading tourist destination, must and can invest in the best tourist experience, stressed the Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, speaking to “K”. “Therefore, apart from the pandemic that creates – worldwide – an unstable environment, it is now imperative that we upgrade our infrastructure. “Ensuring the growth of the tourism product and the duration in quality and income presuppose a strategy of sustainable tourism through respect for the environment and the special characteristics of our islands and the hinterland”, he underlines. At the same time, as he notes, the balanced and sustainable development will enhance competitiveness, will improve the tourism product, will create a better quality of life for residents and visitors. “It is the responsibility of all co-responsible bodies to work in a coordinated, targeted and strategic plan in this direction. “The” Greece “brand is very strong and together we will make it stronger”, he adds. “The need for a new tourism model based on sustainability, investment and digitization is imperative,” warned the president of SETE (Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises), Giannis Retsos. He says that a comprehensive plan is needed for the modernization of infrastructure and the development of young people where they do not exist, through strategic partnerships between the private and public sectors and, of course, to effectively address the challenge of the environment, green growth and climate change. Sustainability.

 

src:https://www.kathimerini.gr/economy/561495757/stress-test-gia-ta-ellinika-nisia-o-ypertoyrismos/