The World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage (WTACH) has commenced a study into the tourism carrying capacity of Athens, in partnership with the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (EATA).
“Tourism Carrying Capacity” is defined by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as “the maximum number of people that may visit a tourist destination at the same time, without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable decrease in the quality of visitors’ satisfaction”.
The objective is to raise awareness of the tourism carrying capacity of greater Athens, especially in peak season, with the view to easing pressure on the city’s urban infrastructure and better spreading the benefits of tourism, both geographically and throughout the year.
According to WTACH, pre-Covid, multiple cruise ships often arrived to Athens on the same day in peak season. Localised spikes in tourism numbers have the potential to compromise the ability of Athens to provide sustainable, safe, and accessible tourism experiences, throughout the city.
The study will address these challenges and make recommendations.
The research will canvas the opinions of local residents groups, local tourism-related associations, relevant business leaders, and civil servants.
“There’s never been a study like this before in Athens… The aim is to reach a more holistic view of what is right for the city,” said Carolyn Childs, WTACH Advisory Panel member and lead research consultant for the project.
Depending on the outcomes, the findings may be useful as a tool to lobby political leaders to secure improved tourism management policies.
According to EATA CEO Vangelis Vlachos, the study will also provide vital empirical data showing the impact of the visitor economy on the Greek capital.
“We believe that quality of life is our most valuable cultural asset and that it can help grow tourism in Athens, but only if we treat this heritage carefully so that it is accessible to everyone,” he said.
Citing data from Athens International Airport (AIA), WTACH said that Athens attracted 6.4 international million tourists in 2019, up from 3.1 million in 2009.