July 19, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Greece must carry out reforms to protect tourism, says ombudsman

Greece must curb rampant construction and protect water resources and coastal areas if it wants to maintain a healthy tourism industry on the country's mainland and beach-lined islands, the country's ombudsman said in a report released Thursday.

33 million people visited Greece in 2023, up 5 million from the previous year, drawn by its ancient archaeological sites, turquoise Mediterranean waters and consistently sunny weather. But in a report published on Thursday, the ombudsman warned of growing environmental risks and called for urgent reforms.

“Our country's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, making the need to manage it sustainably even more urgent,” the report said. “Greece must not exhaust its potential by wasting it and making our tourism destinations unattractive over time.”

Tourism accounts for more than a quarter of economic output and nearly 2 million Greeks derive their annual income from the sector, according to the report, which is the first report by Greece's ombudsman on the sector since the body was founded more than 25 years ago. Revenues are expected to rise to 21 billion in 2024 from 20.5 billion last year, a boon for an economy emerging from a decade-long debt crisis.

Social media darling Santorini – a small island of 15,550 residents – welcomes more than 5.5 million visitors annually, double the number in 2012, the report says. The island's annual income is 1 billion euros. “On Santorini, even tourists complain about the large number of holidaymakers,” the report says.

It calls for stricter regulation to reduce coastal development and slow deforestation that creates flood-promoting conditions. The report also calls for greater conservation of water resources amid “huge” demands for drinking water, swimming pools and water parks. “Tourism is an area where the lack of vision and strategy is particularly evident. Implementing sound tourism management is a huge need,” the report says.


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