The seas can rise 100 meters, and the puppet politicians will still be deaf to cries of sustainable future. Nowhere is this more evidence, than here in Greece. News from GTP about Piraeus port getting ready to welcome 700 cruise ships in 2022 is proof enough. It’s high time Greece decisionmakers start leveraging the country’s value for citizens, instead of leveraging Greek business sector and the touristic profits for outside influences.
That’s seven hundred, with a seven and two zeroes, reported matter of factly, and with a hint of pride going on from Piraeus Port Authority (PPA). This number is 78 more ships than the 622 cruise ships were served in the record breaking year before COVID dampened cruise tourism. Piraeus Port Authority Chairman Yu Zenggang, was cited in the GTP story sounding as if he is living inside some kind of Chinese corporate bunker beneath Athens.
Reading this man’s qualifications, and COSCO’s narrative on growth for Piraeus, it’s impossible to envision anything but a looming eco-disaster if trends continue. Greece destinations like Santorini and Mykonnos are already experiencing overtourism ruination, while Crete and another island destinations are right behind where declining tourism value is concerned. The government in Greece spouts daily about “sustainability,” but nowhere is there evidence this is more than PR fluff.You will find more infographics at Statista
700 average size cruise ships emit 3,500 tons of NOX emissions and 350,000 kilograms of ultrafine particles each day. And cruise ships emit four times more CO2 per passenger than airplanes do. And this says nothing for human sewage in graywater, blackwater, and solid waste produced by these behemouths. But these forms of pollution are nothing compared with other unsustainable costs. The degradation of Greece’s overall tourism offer being chief among these.
In 2017, Carnival Corporation, the world’s biggest operator of luxury cruises, emitted ten times more sulphur dioxide (SOx) over Europe’s coasts than all the cars on the continent. The madness of inviting more of these ships is further illustrated in this brief video dealing with only 400 cruise ships impacting Key West in the Florida Keys.
By making Greece a cruise Mecca for lower middle class travelers, these government officials are cutting the throats of not only local retailers and restauranteurs, but the same hotel and resort oligarchs that got them elected in the first place. A floating all-inclusive takes from the beach resorts geared to the same tourists, moreso than from unique holiday stays like Airbnb hosts. In the end, these kinds of announcements start looking like a shark frenzy over under the table dealings. It’s madness, to be blunt. Santorini is already ruined by overtourism, the last five friends we’ve helped visit there came back appalled at the lack of value because the traditions we spoke of had already evaporated, and the crowding issue. And the politicians just keep signing off on big corporate deals.
It’s not as if the alarm sirens have been silent. This Guardian report “A rising tide: ‘overtourism’” and the curse of the cruise ships, surely caught the eye of Athens baby kissers. If not, this CNN one should have. The New York Times sounded off, and AFAR has addressed some issues, while dozens of independent studies show a line on cruising must be drawn soon. Meanwhile, the people who bought up Greece’s most valuable industries speak from economic podiums about growth, growth, growth, as if they are brainless robots of super-capitalism. It’s significant here to take note of the fact you won’t find a single Greek politician in a photograph with a real sustainability expert. You can however, Google TUI and Greece tourism and find one in 2 seconds.
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) has said it is aware of the potential for problems and states that the country’s policy “dictates not moving beyond the carrying capacity of the environment.” But, what is the carrying capacity? 1,000 cruise ships? 2,000? 10,000? At exactly what point do these descisionmakers say “stop” to the big money behind Greece’s tourism downfall? Speaking from Crete, pretty soon my Cretan friends will have to start paying the tourists to come, the prices have been chopped so many times. Half the retailers and other business owners I know, are out of business and either working for somebody else, or looking for work outside Greece. It’s a cataclysm. Madness. Some kind of stupid ray has been shined on Greece, allowing the dumbest of the dumb to run things.
In this report, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias is talking out of both sides of his mouth reiterating what his predicessor Harry Theoharis jabbered about for several years. The point being, it’s all just talk. How can bringing in dozens more cruise ships, and expanding the Thessaloniki port as well, in any way positively affect the overtourism problem? Kikilias says his “ministry” will promote mainland destinations, but cruise ships don’t go there! The plan is to spread thousands more budget tourists to ever smaller and smaller islands perhaps? I can just imagine Kikilias at WTM (as below) with Jet2 and the Saudis discussing the paramount importance of sustainable tourism.
Thankfully, there is at least some talk concering strategies like degrowth, which would mitigate the current situation and regenerate profits for businesses. Instead of more cruise ships and overall tourists, Greece should be driving premium tourists to her shores. It’s time the politicians were replaced with people who have the public interest in mind, and not corporate benefactors. Let’s hope Heraklion, Pireaus, and several Greek islands are not underwater from sea level rise before the politicians get it. We are in a crisis that has to be reversed, not perpetuated.