Athens Mayor Declares Tourism No Longer Viable, Citing Low Economic Impact Per Visitor

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**Throngs Near Parthenon Signal Athens’ Struggle with Overtourism**

In the bustling heart of Athens, crowds swarm historical spectacles like the Parthenon, vibrant markets, and indulge in local delicacies such as souvlaki. However, the influx of tourists is becoming unmanageable, prompting local authorities to limit Acropolis visitors to 20,000 per day. This measure comes in response to the tourist season extending beyond the typical summer months, as visitor numbers have surged.

Tourism in Greece is proving to be a mixed blessing. While the sector’s boom—up 120% from 2019 to 2023—fuels the economy, contributing 25-30% of Greece’s GDP and up to 90% in areas like Santorini, the side effects are mounting. Athens Mayor Harris Doukas highlighted the unsustainable nature of the current tourism model, noting the paltry returns of €0.40 per tourist and the lack of visible economic benefits to the city’s residents.

**Environmental and Infrastructure Strains Underline the Need for Sustainable Tourism**

Last year, Greece saw a record 33 million tourists, a number three times its own population. This growth, while economically beneficial, has placed an inordinate strain on infrastructure, housing, and the environment. This strain is exacerbated by Greece’s recent struggles with wildfires and other natural disasters.

As part of a reevaluation of its tourism strategy, the Greek government has acknowledged the environmental toll from increased land use and urban expansion linked to tourism. One new initiative to mitigate these impacts is a “climate crisis resilience tax” added to hotel bills, intended to fund disaster mitigation efforts.

**New Policies to Address Overtourism**

In an effort to curb overcrowding, Greece has implemented new policies, such as extending the tourist season and enforcing rules against excessive space usage by tourists on beaches. Economy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis emphasized the balance between protecting the environment and public access to beaches, while also fostering a sustainable tourism industry.

Amidst a global resurgence in travel post-pandemic, Greece is not alone in facing overtourism. Similar challenges are affecting other European destinations like Italy and the Netherlands. Amsterdam, for instance, has halted the construction of new hotels and is reducing cruise ship dockings, while Venice now charges an entry fee to tourists.

These measures reflect a broader, international challenge: managing the boon of tourism without overwhelming local resources and compromising the quality of life for residents.

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