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How the Greek capital is finding solutions for the tourist rush

How the Greek capital is finding solutions for the tourist rush

Across Europe, countries are taking measures to combat overtourism and Athens is no exception. The last two years have shown that the city is struggling to cope with the influx of visitors.

A few years ago, the goal was to attract tourists all year round. This has now 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 streets in August a distant memory.

While this recovery is stimulating the economy and contributing to GDP and tax revenues, it also brings significant challenges as it places heavy strains on inadequate infrastructure and scarce local resources.

“We need rules,” says Katerina Kikilia, professor of tourism management at the University of West Attica. “Athenians are confronted with the social and environmental impacts on a daily basis. The housing crisis is enormous,” she tells Euronews.

Kikilia explains that in many areas of Athens and Attica, short-term rentals are now prevalent, displacing families and students.

Katerina Kikilia, Professor at the University of West Attica.Katerina Kikilia, Professor at the University of West Attica.

Katerina Kikilia, Professor at the University of West Attica. – euronews

Kikilia cites Koukaki as an example. “Once a beautiful neighborhood, it is now a center for short-term rentals, no families and no school children,” she says.

Despite the development of the hotel infrastructure, the rest of the city’s infrastructure is lagging behind. “In urban areas, the socio-cultural impact is great, tourists displace long-term residents and change the character of the neighborhoods. The housing issue has become explosive,” the Ombudsman said in a report on the topic of sustainable tourism.

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

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

Antonis Markopoulos, co-founder of Prosperty – euronews

“There is a huge supply problem in the rental market, demand is five times greater than supply. Many renovated properties are marketed for short-term rentals or through closed networks and never reach 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.

“Every visitor brings 40 cents to the city and we have not seen this money yet,” Doukas told Euronews. “We need sustainable tourism that does not worsen inequalities in cities.”

Tourists on the Acropolis Tourists on the Acropolis

Tourists on the Acropolis – euronews

Doukas announced a tourism capacity study to define the city’s boundaries and collect data on short-term rentals and hotels.

One of the proposed measures is to allocate the “resilience fee” of ten euros per day paid by five-star hotels to the municipality for infrastructure development.

“Nothing of this fee goes to the municipality today,” said Doukas.

WATCH the full report in the player above.