Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced to Bloomberg that Greece will start imposing restrictions on cruise ships visiting the country’s most popular islands. This initiative represents the government’s first step in tackling the challenges of “over-tourism” in the post-pandemic era.

Tourism represents about a quarter of Greece’s economic output, with record-breaking tourist visits and spending observed in the aftermath of COVID-19. In 2023, Greece welcomed 32.7 million tourists, an 18% increase from the previous year, while early 2024 saw a nearly 25% rise. Bloomberg reports that cruise tourism generated 847.4 million euros in revenue last year, more than double that of 2022.

Although the prime minister’s decision may unsettle the industry, the impact on mass tourism is expected to be minimal, as ships will continue visiting most islands, including those with ports near Athens in Piraeus. Mitsotakis’ remarks also prompt reflection on whether the economic benefits of large cruise ships outweigh their environmental footprint.

Furthermore, Mitsotakis specifically noted pressure on Greece’s popular destinations, such as Santorini in the Cyclades. Known for its striking volcanic terrain and stunning sunsets, Santorini hosted 800 cruise ships last year, bringing nearly 1.3 million visitors—an increase of almost 17% from 2022, while the island is home to approximately 15,000 permanent residents.

While Greece faces these challenges, it joins other Mediterranean countries in addressing the consequences of high tourist demand. Italy, for instance, banned large cruise ships from Venice’s central canal in 2021 due to damage caused by excessive tourism.


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