What a travesty iconic Greece is becoming. The desperation caused by the coronavirus pandemic will end up a world ender, perhaps. But for Greece’s tourism sustainability, the economic desperation is already ruining any hope. News from Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis at the 66th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission of Europe tells the tale.
Theoharis was cited at the meetup expressing his supreme optimism about the launch of cruises in Greece this summer, braging that the number of scheduled cruises launching from Greek ports this year is “record-breaking.” The head of the country’s tourism effort added that Greece is soon to become a so-called home-port destination on the map of international cruises.
An ANA report via Tornos News tells us some 20 cruise routes have been scheduled for Greece so far this summer, visiting a total of 45 ports across the country. Of these, fifteen will be homeported in Greece harbors. Last year, just before the coronavirus pandemic struck, I questioned whether or not Theoharis was just paying lip service to the sustainability trend, so the recent UNWTO comments pretty much answered my query then.
In April of last year, with the COVID situation just starting to bloom, Theoharis said Greece’s priorities were to “improve competitiveness, quality of services provided, and the resilience, authenticity, and sustainability of the tourism product.” He also told Greece Investment Guide that upgrading tourism establishments by offering a high quality of services and a low ecological footprint was a set goal.
Then in November of 2020 Theoharis told reporters about a study by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) on Santorini and Rhodes. He touted his ministry’s alleged efforts at “formulating a plan to see how we can safeguard these destinations, adding sustainability in a way that doesn’t clash with the local population.” So clearly, the minister was not laying the true cards on the table. I suspect there was never any plan to curb cruise tourism to these islands at all. There’s simple too much corporate/economic pressure being exerted, for Greek politicians to veer off toward a new horizon.
The list of scholarly studies showing that islands like Santorini are in ecological peril is nearly endless. From heavy metals and soil poisoning to a hundred areas of impact management, there’s not doubt Theoharis and other politicians have the data to make the right decisions. To be blunt here, the correlation between overtourism and degradation of both product and environment is cemented into reality (PDF), but these political mouthpieces just obfuscate and misguide the industry. It’s not only sad, it’s misleading and a form of malfeasance in office. Read this analysis (PDF) by Transport & Environment from 2019. It tells of Carnival cruise ships emitting more SO air pollution than all the cars in Europe.
In this paper (PDF) by Sotirios Karagiannis and Dimitrios Thomakos the researchers identified Santorini and Mykonos as being under extreme overtourism pressure as of three years ago. And this paper concerning Barcelona’s overtourism problem reveals a coming horror for not only Santorini but for Crete and other islands as well. After the Olympic Games were held in this Spain city in 1992, the world wanted to visit Barcelona. And then something called “Tourist phobia” set in. Now, people in the beautiful port city literally despise seeing visitors. And this is where Greece is headed full steam ahead.
I will not bore the reader with further harping on Greece’s tourism strategy here. I will make mention of the fact Greece is selling off her ports, which certainly has an impact on this cruise homeport news. To be honest, However, I am not really sure anyone cares much about whether or not Harry Theoharis’s “bug sighted strategies” are sustainable or not. But people should be. What’s underneath all these decisions is important for people to understand. Forget huge privatization deals though. The knee-jerking emergency the coronavirus has cause will end up doing trillions of euros in damage to the long-range Greek economy. Imagine the day when a Santorini sunset commercial makes a potential traveler grimace because of a past experience being crowded off a cliff by a throng of budget cruise ship passengers! Trust me, it’s already happening. Pretty soon, TUI cruises won’t even stop at Thera. The captain will just comer over the ship’s communication system to announce his vessel passing the ancient volcano.
And that’s all I have to say about Harry Theoharis’ blustery pride over Greece being the home of the Mediterranean fleet. Good God.