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Santorini Is Capping Cruise Ship Tourism

Sept. 06, 2018
3 min read
Village of Oia in Santorini, Greece
Santorini Is Capping Cruise Ship Tourism
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Officials in Santorini, the island hotspot that attracts nearly 2 million tourists every year, are saying they've had enough with visitors.

Starting in 2019, the island will cap daily cruise ship arrivals at 8,000. "The island is saturated," Mayor Nikos Zorzos told the Wall Street Journal. The mayor said the overflow of tourists has put too much strain on the island's infrastructure and supply. Nearly half of the 2 million visitors coming to Santorini are day visitors come on cruise ships that stay on the island an average of seven hours, cruise operators and local officials told the WSJ. The island attracts more than 10,000 visitors a day on some of the summer's busiest days.

Tourism makes up 20% of Greece's annual GNP, and the mayor's decision has caused frustration among cruise ship operators and business owners who rely on these tourists.

"A lot of people here depend on cruisers, but something has to give,” Mayor Zorzos said in an interview with the WSJ. “The electricity grid and water supply are at their limit. Garbage has doubled in five years. If we don’t control the crowds, it will backfire and ruin us.”

However, cruises are booked two years in advance, and the island has no plans to introduce smaller ships or cut trips. The Cruise Lines Industry Association expressed its concerns to the WSJ and said the company will respect the mayor's decision, but feels like they are being wrongly blamed for the problems caused by tourists. Because the boats are too large to dock on the island's small ports, smaller boats bring the tourists in from the old port in Fira, on the eastern side of Santorini. From there, long lines form to board an old cable car to ascend into the city — or tourists can ride a donkey, which locals aren't happy about either.

The mayor's office said they've looked into adding another cable car, but with high costs and approval needed from the government in Athens, it could talk years to complete.

Cruise ship operators aren't the only ones frustrated about the impending cap. A local cafe owner in Fira expressed to the WSJ that she relies on cruise ship visitors in order to make rent and said every time she hears about limiting numbers she feels insecure.

If you're a tourist who wants a Greek island experience -- but more off the beaten path than Santorini -- try one of these 8 Gorgeous Greek Islands You Haven't Heard of Yet.

H/T: Wall Street Journal

Featured image by Getty Images