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Overrun Athens: How the Greek capital is finding solutions to the tourist influx

Tourists with an umbrella walk in front of the Parthenon at the ancient Acropolis in central Athens, June 12, 2024.
Tourists with an umbrella walk in front of the Parthenon at the ancient Acropolis in central Athens, June 12, 2024. Copyright Petros Giannakouris/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Petros Giannakouris/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Foteini Doulgkeri
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This article was originally published in Greek

With tourism booming year-round, Athens' local resources and residents are feeling the strain.

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All over Europe, countries are taking measures against overtourism and Athens is not an exception. The last two years have shown the city’s struggle with the influx of visitors.

A few years ago, the goal was to have tourists all year round. Now that has been achieved, but at what cost?

Athens welcomed more than 7 million tourists in 2023, and experts predict a 20% increase this year, making the once-empty August streets a distant memory.

While this surge boosts the economy, contributing to GDP and tax revenues, it also brings significant challenges, putting a major strain on inadequate infrastructure and strained local resources.

“We need rules,” says Katerina Kikilia, Professor of Tourism Management at the University of West Attica. “Athenians face daily the social and environmental impact. The housing crisis is huge,” she tells Euronews.

Kikilia explains that many areas of Athens and Attica are now dominated by short-term rentals, with families and students being pushed out.

Katerina Kikilia, professor at the University of West Attica.
Katerina Kikilia, professor at the University of West Attica.euronews

As an example, Kikilia mentions Koukaki. “Once a beautiful neighbourhood, it’s now a hub for short-term rentals, no families and no schoolchildren,” she says.

Despite the development of hotel infrastructure, the rest of the city’s infrastructure is lagging. “In urban areas the socio-cultural impact is big, tourists are displacing long-term residents and changing the character of the neighbourhoods. The housing issue has become explosive,” the Ombudsman said in a report on sustainable tourism.

Rental prices have skyrocketed, especially near metro stops that are popular with tourists. “It’s all about supply and demand,” says Antonis Markopoulos, co-founder of real estate company Prosperty. “If you search for properties today, you’ll find plenty, but good value is rare.

Antonis Markopoulos, co-founder of Prosperty
Antonis Markopoulos, co-founder of Prospertyeuronews

“There’s a huge supply problem in the rental market, demand is five times more than supply. Many renovated properties are marketed for short-term rentals or through closed networks, never reaching the general market. Many are struggling.”

Barcelona has recently cracked down on short-term rentals, and Athens will do even more, says Mayor Harris Doukas.

“Each visitor brings €0.40 to the city, and we haven’t seen this money yet,” Doukas told Euronews. “We need sustainable tourism that doesn’t worsen city inequalities.”

Tourists at the Acropolis
Tourists at the Acropolis euronews

Doukas announced a tourism capacity study to set the city’s limits and to gather data on short-term rentals and hotels.

One of the proposed measures is to reallocate the €10 daily "resilience fee" from five-star hotels to the municipality for infrastructure development.

“None of this fee is going to the municipality today,” Doukas said.

WATCH the full report in the player above.

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