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Greece: Overtourism or Poor Management? What is the Real Problem of Popular Destinations?

Santorini, Greece. Photo Source: Visit Greece / Y. Skoulas

Santorini, Greece. Photo Source: Visit Greece / Y. Skoulas

Is overtourism one of Greece’s greatest challenges or is it poor management that creates endless overcrowding and congestion at highly visited Greek destinations?

After the halt of tourism operations in 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, tourism traffic to Greece started picking up pace in the summer of 2021, increasing optimism among tourism professionals but also raising concerns about long-term issues including overtourism.

Tourism experts are now questioning previous practices and searching for new answers on how to address the phenomenon.

According to Dimitrios Buhalis, visiting professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, tourism is a complicated sector that – depending on the circumstances – needs long-term strategies to be able to develop new experiences based on the diversity of the tourism product.

“This may sound easy but in fact, it is a very complicated process because tourism must be sustainable, profitable, support local communities and create experiences that visitors will convey to others,” he said, during a conference organized by job search engine Skywalker.gr on Thursday.

The event took place online with the participation of Greek tourism professionals Nikos Karaflos, CEO of Dexamenes Seaside Hotel; Anna Manias, co-owner of Greeking.me; Andreas Fatouros, CEO of Clio Muse Tours; Sustainable Tourism Expert Iyad Kayali; and Michael Dritsas, chief of staff of Deputy Development Minister Christos Dimas.

Does overtourism exist?

While looking for answers, tourism experts set new a questions: Does overtourism even exist?

“We tend to simplify things. Overtourism does not exist. Greece’s problem is mostly caused by bad management policies,” Professor Buhalis explained during the event.

He went on to add that decreasing tourism flows is not the answer.

“Most people discuss on ways to decrease the number of tourists. This is not going to happen. We expect tourism flows to increase further in the future,” he said, adding that as people improve the quality of their lives, travel is the next thing they will look for to create new experiences.

“So, the real issue is to manage tourism demand in a smart way and look for ways to evenly distribute tourism traffic to Greek destinations. We must promote different forms of tourism, experiences and other destinations to avoid overcrowding,” Buhalis added.

New gov’t approach

Meanwhile, new key strategies announced by the Tourism Ministry are in line with Buhalis’ suggestions, and focus on introducing other destinations and redirecting travelers to new locations.

Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias.

Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias

In a recent interview to Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said that efforts were being made to introduce lesser-known destinations to travelers through a unified information network.

Kikilias informed that a large part of the ministry’s actions is focused on the mainland and lesser on the popular islands, aiming to maintain authenticity and diversify tourism offerings.

The minister added that environmental policies are key to developing a sustainable tourism model that will create added value and distribute travelers evenly across the country’s destinations.

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About the Author
Eleftheria has worked for several financial newspapers, magazines and websites during the past 19 years. Between 2004 and 2014 she worked as a radio producer, reporter and presenter for the Greek and English language program of “Athina 9.84 FM”. She also has hands-on experience in the MICE industry.

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