Greece to Make Big Move to Combat Overtourism

PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announces plans for 2025 to restrict cruise ships entering its ports
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2024 8:41 AM CDT
Greek PM: We're Limiting Cruise Ships, Starting Next Year
People watch Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, docked at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on May 18, 2015.   (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Tourism is responsible for about 25% of Greece's economic output, and since the pandemic has eased, people have been flocking to the Mediterranean nation in droves. It may be too much of a good thing, according to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who tells Bloomberg he now wants to place restrictions on cruise ships sailing into the region, especially to tourist hot spots like Santorini and Mykonos. Mitsotakis said those restrictions could entail everything from cutting down on the number of ship berths available, or even implementing a bidding process for those berths.

"I think we'll do it next year," Mitsotakis says of a timeline for his plan. The numbers lend insight into why the prime minister might be concerned: Just last week, the European Travel Information and Authorization System reported that there were 120% more tourists visiting Greece in Q1 of this year than in 2019, before the pandemic hit, per Quartz. On the surface, that might seem to be a boon to Greece's bottom line. However, the sheer number of visitors who enter Greece on cruise ships—which brought the country $910 million in revenue last year, per Bloomberg—could prove to be a turnoff for other tourists, especially on the island of Santorini.

About 800 vessels, carrying 1.3 million tourists, visited the vacation destination last year, according to the Hellenic Ports Association. "There are people spending a lot of money to be on Santorini and they don't want the island to be swamped," Mitsotakis tells Bloomberg. "Plus the island can't afford it, even in terms of security." The Maritime Executive notes that Greece isn't the first to struggle with cruise ships amid overtourism. Venice has tried to keep cruise ships out of its lagoon, while other major cities, including Amsterdam and Spain's Barcelona, have tried to keep ships out of their city centers. US cities from Juneau, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, have also recently imposed restrictions on cruises. (More Greece stories.)

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