Monday, September 18, 2017

Greeks Alarmed About Tourist Saturation

Against the background of talk of tourist limits, control of holiday rentals and tourist "massification", it is useful to note what is going on elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There seems to be a view among those who are rejecting the Balearic policies - tourist tax, rentals' legislation - that other destinations don't have the same issues and will be welcoming floods of more tourists next year: those who will be abandoning Mallorca.

There really does need to be a greater understanding of these other destinations. Take the Greek islands, for example, and the context of Greece's politics, with the Podemos-style Syriza in power, curiously supported by the highly conservative right-wing Independent Greeks.

Santorini is a case in point. It has a population of 25,000. It receives some two million visitors per year. The island's mayor, Anastasios Sorsos, wants the Greek government to declare the island "touristically saturated". Santorini simply can't cope. Its roads can no longer support more traffic. The use of resources has been stretched to its absolute limit.

There is to be a cap placed on the number of cruise ships. The environment ministry is being asked to ban any development away from the main urbanised areas. There is a drive to limit hotel capacities and to prevent there being new businesses that offer tourist services. There is an environmental lobby as concerned as any in the Balearics

Prices are increasing, accommodation is ever more difficult to find for employees and for professional groups, such as doctors. There has to be an end to private holiday rentals, especially those via the likes of Airbnb. They are "wreaking havoc" and not just in Santorini.

Does it all sound rather familiar? Well yes, it does. And the point is that Mallorca is far from being the only tourist destination where issues exist regarding saturation. Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO), has highlighted his concern with growing tourismphobia. He cited Dubrovnik in Croatia as an example because of saturation through holiday rentals and cruise ship passenger numbers.

2017 is supposedly the year of tourism sustainability, a year decreed by the WTO. This sustainability is espoused by political regimes such as those of the Balearics and Greece, yet it is coloured, as Rifai, notes, by populism that generates an antagonism within society. He is stepping down as secretary general. His successor, the Georgian Zurab Pololikashvili, faces great challenges, and one of them is tourismphobia. 

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