ATHENS – Santorini, one of the world's popular – and overcrowded – islands, is so overwhelmed that the New Democracy government is looking at proposals from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to cut down the numbers.
With more than two million visitors annually, standing cheek-by-jowl in the cliffside resort of Oia in the summer months especially, the island’s infrastructure is being tested, and people coming even through the winter, the spectacular sunset a year-round draw.
The proposed measures include authorities cutting tickets during peak months for access to Oia, the prime spot for watching the sun set, as well as restrictions on disembarkations from cruise ships and limits on the duration of Airbnb rentals, said Kathimerini.
Other ideas include overhauling of town planning regulations to protect the environment and upgrading of the island’s waste management system including a scheme to ban single-use plastics, the report said.
Government officials have briefed Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and are expected to make their final recommendations as the peak summer season kicks in with Santorini on a short list of the world’s so-called hypertourism sites with other European destinations including Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam.
“The thought of making Santorini an all year round destination was mainly to welcome customers in the winter, visitors that we were slowly losing due to the congestion on the island in the summer due to the large crowds,” Kostas Konstantinidis, a hotel owner on the island told GTP Headlines in October, 2018.
So overrun with tourists it’s a caricature of what once was a less-spoiled postcard perfect Greek island of blue sea and skies and white cliffside homes, and a blue-topped church becoming an iconic image, Instagram is putting Santorini out of focus for many.
Voted the World’s Best Island in 2014 by the magazine Travel + Leisure for his instant charm and spectacular views of a dormant volcano and sunsets to die for, it is on the Bucket List for just about everyone it seems, and they can’t wait to send selfies, snapshots and videos on the social network sharing service Instagram, ruining the party by inviting more.
Its beauty is now in the eye of the cell phone that sends instant images around the world, an electronic siren call to come, bringing a financial bonanza but also worry that its popularity will be its undoing, with cruise ships visits being limited.
The island’s Mayor, Loukas Bellonias, has heard it all before but with the world a flick of the finger away on your cell phone or computer, Santorini is the hot-button place.
“Santorini has very unique geography that people want to photograph immediately,” he told the magazine. “Social media has turned (it) from just another travel destination into one of the most popular in the world.”