Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis is calling on the government to hand over jurisdiction and responsibility to the municipality as part of an overall deal with the state that will pave the way for a regulatory framework safeguarding the city center from overtourism and unbalanced development.
In an interview to Greek daily Kathimerini, Bakoyannis said it was vital to ensure that Athens does not exceed carrying capacity.
“In some parts of the city we have exceeded carrying capacity limits, in others we’re looking for Airbnbs,” said Bakoyannis, calling on the central government to enter an agreement with the municipality and together to formulate a regulatory framework that will focus on each neighborhood separately. He went on to add that legal and political responsibility should be handed over to the municipal authority as is the case in the rest of Europe.
Earlier this year, cities in Europe urged the European Commission to take legislative action that will limit Airbnb-style rentals and tackle illegal short-term operations fearing that a post-pandemic boom in tourism will threaten the livability of cities and the affordability of housing.
At the same time, HOTREC, representing Europe’s hospitality industry, called for an EU-wide framework that will introduce clear and consistent obligations for short-term rental platforms and hosts and will enable effective oversight of short-term rental activities by local and national authorities.
“The municipality and central government must complement each other in order to ensure the quality and safety of citizens’ lives,” he said.
In this direction, the mayor added, the government and the municipality should clearly designate responsibilities and areas of jurisdiction particularly now that Athens is gaining ground as a top tourist destination.
“Athens is back; investments, tourists, services, projects. There is a big difference compared to the previous decade. At the same time, however, years of indifference and neglect are taking their toll. We are at a tipping point, but we have a great chance to make things right,” he said.
‘We do not want Athens to turn into Disneyland’
According to Bakoyannis, the proposed agreement between the City of Athens and the state would also contribute significantly to the smooth operation of the Greek capital.
The mayor added that a top priority was to preserve the color and the liveliness of the city. “We do not want Athens to turn into Disneyland,” he said referring to the small shops and residential areas which are suffering from the onslaught of tourism.
“The magic of the city is in its ‘mixed uses’. The fact that just a few meters away from the city hall you can find a good restaurant or a boutique hotel, you can buy everything from buttons… to anchors. We don’t want Athens to turn into an Ancient Greek or Neoclassical Disneyland,” he said, adding that the municipality’s financial support programs for small and medium-sized enterprises are not enough.
It should be noted that Greece leads the way in Europe in terms of demand for Airbnb-style rentals which was up by 26.5 percent in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, according AirDNA data.
“For the resident, the ‘culture’ of everyday life, neighborhood life is important,” he said.
Bakoyannis told Kathimerini that he will be running again for mayor of Athens in the upcoming elections.