Visiting Santorini and Mykonos in the summer is like jostling for position on Black Friday in the United States just before a mall opens with Christmas offerings, and unless you like elbow soup there are better places in Greece to see.
While this is the time of the year when countries typically promote their biggest draws, Greece’s Tourism Ministry is taking a different tack in trying to lure visitors to smaller and less-known islands that are more traditional and quieter.
Unlike Mykonos, where girls dance on table tops and restaurants gouge tourists and there’s a reputation for hedonism, Greece’s less-visited islands offer a respite – a vacation – for people who want to go where others don’t.
With the hordes returning during the third but waning year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the well-known islands are so overrun they resemble Las Vegas-like recreations instead of what they were before people showed up.
“The campaign is ‘Greece: if you come even once, you will want to stay forever,’” Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias told the BBC’s Victoria Craig in a report on what lesser-known destinations and islands offer.
“Alternative destinations. So many of them: 124 inhabited islands. Yes, of course it’s about Mykonos and Santorini and Corfu and Crete, but there are so many other destinations,” he said.
So many people are coming there are hopes it will top the previous record 33 million arrivals in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, which brought in 18 billion euros ($18.07 billion) which could be 20 billion euros ($20.07 billion) this year.
The numbers in 2021, when visitors started trickling back as more international travel began, but with strict health measures that kept people away, were 34 percent below 2019’s record-buster year.
The report also noted that was pretty much in line with global trends, but with the United Nations’ World Tourism Barometer showing a big comeback in the first five months of 2022 that is still continuing.
Kikilias said the strategy is to try to spread tourism numbers across many destinations and reduce over-tourism that is ruining the popular islands that more resemble airport terminals full of people.