The world’s number one popular island destination in 2017, Santorini is a victim of its own success, drawing such hordes that municipal authorities are being forced to limit how many cruise ships can land and disembark passengers during peak periods.
An effort to reduce the congestion that occurs on Santorini in the high season when numerous cruise ships and passengers arrive at the same time is in full swing.
The popular Cycladic island will this year be able to host only 8,000 visitors per day, down from 12,000 or more in 2017 and in previous years.
Cruise ship companies, which pass by the islet of the Caldera volcano under the main island whose cliffs soar and show off white stucco luxury residences, hotels and narrow winding streets, have been asked to modify arrival days and the times they land to stagger them.
This is why the port fund decided this year to introduce the berth allocation system as of this year, with its President, Ilias Pelekis, explaining to Kathimerini that 439 cruise vessels have registered for 2018, compared to 409 that visited in 2017. There have already been 451 vessel registrations for next year.
Most ships tend to arrive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, causing massive congestion at the port and on the roads leading to the most popular villages of Oia, Fira and Imerovigli, where nightly stays can cost thousands of euros but the crowds keep coming.
“If the companies themselves fail to modify the visiting times in an acceptable fashion, we will arbitrarily carry out the modifications ourselves,” Pelakis said.
“In some cases we have also requested changes to the times of disembarking so that there is a minimum of an hour’s gap between them and ideally to have some in the morning and others in the afternoon,” he said.
IT’S TOO POPULAR
Santorini’s wild popularity – rated the world’s number one island destination this year – is bringing in so many tourists that the sheer numbers are harming the environment, the local community and putting its future in jeopardy.
After a report in the British newspaper The Guardian that cited the stresses of more than two million visitors a year to the island – more than 130 times its population of 15,550 – island officials and researchers at the University of the Aegean told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini the assessments were putting the island at risk.
“After examining the number of arrivals, overnight stays and beds in 2016, we determined that at the peak of the tourism season, the island received around 70,000 people on a daily basis, meaning that things such as demand for water far surpassed capabilities,” said Ioannis Spilanis, an Associate Professor of Social and Environmental Sciences at the university and Scientific Adviser at the South Aegean Tourism Observatory.
“Everything increases, including the volume of trash and water consumption,” Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos confirmed. “Overexploitation will lead to environmental Impoverishment, and the waste of natural resources will sap the island’s attraction.
“No more hotels, no more cars,” added Zorzos, who has appealed to the government to take measures to curb development on the island at the same time the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is counting on tourism to spark any prospects of a recovery.
There are currently 75 airlines offering flights to Santorini, with their number rising and flights arriving from dozens of countries, reaching as many as 57 a day during the summer months. Visitors also arrive on cruise ships that dock at Santorini from March until almost Christmas, letting off as many as 25,000 people a day.