Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said actions are being taken to address the issue of overtourism particularly on popular islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.
In an interview to Greek newspaper Kathimerini on Sunday, Kikilias said studies were being carried out for Mykonos and Santorini as part of ministry plans to convert the islands into sustainable destinations.
“This effort is not limited to these two islands but also to other destinations that do not yet face a problem. It’s a complex issue, but we’ve worked out ways to deal with it,” he said.
Among others, a top priority for the ministry is to extend the tourism season, in efforts to decongest very popular destinations and allow the spread of tourism flows throughout the year, he said. Kikilias went on to add that the ministry is also counting on infrastructure upgrades to help ease massive traffic flows to the islands.
“The [EU’s] RRF tool is a unique opportunity for infrastructure and development projects that we must take full advantage of,” said Kikilias, adding that tourism ministry projects are among the first up for implementation in the country.
“I’m referring to projects that are important for the quality of the tourism product, such as the improvement of skills and training and the digital transformation of tourism enterprises,” he said.
According to Kikilias, ministry efforts to extend the season have begun to pay off. In January and February, two off-season months, travel receipts increased by 306.2 percent compared to the same period in 2021. He added that this reflected both that the tourism sector was on the road to recovery and that there can be demand beyond the traditional summer months.
“We are pleased because tourism is a key driving force for the development of the Greek economy, boosting the income of the average Greek family. We are not stopping our efforts,” said Kikilias, expressing confidence that 2022 will be a promising year.
New investments in the hotel sector
Lastly the minister also referred to new investments in the hotel sector which will contribute to the overall upgrade of the tourism product on offer: among these Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s plans for Costa Navarino; One&Only’s plans for Glyfada and Tzia island; Marriott’s plans for Thessaloniki and the Peloponnese; Apollo for Limnos; Accor and Hines partnership for an MGallery hotel on Crete; and Gundari’s plans on Folegandros.
“2019 was a year without a pandemic, without war, without the global energy crisis and its consequences – all the conditions we are experiencing this year. In this context, we worked hard from the first moment with a plan and timetables so that 2022 will be a very good year for tourism. We extended the tourist season, campaigned all year round, showcased unknown destinations in Greece, strengthened winter tourism, city breaks, Easter destinations, and of course, our islands, big and small. At the same time we reached important agreements with airlines, with leading tour operators and with the largest cruise companies in the world. These efforts have begun to bear fruit,” said Kikilias.