By Timoleon Palaiologos,
This summer season will definitely be unique. COVID restrictions have been lifted and people are eager to go on vacation, escaping the monotony of this past year. Countries with a heavy tourism industry are expecting mass waves of tourists and be sure that the prices will skyrocket (unless they already have). But why do countries rely on foreign tourism so much? After all, it is just a short-term “investment” that can be easily manipulated and, in some cases, i.e. a pandemic, be completely blocked.
Well, it just so happens that some of these tourist attractions are Mediterranean countries. And what do Mediterranean countries have in common? They have beautiful landscapes and hot weather, but most importantly they are extremely corrupted. The aforementioned combination creates an incredibly successful formula for attracting tourists. This “formula” tends to create a cheaper cost of living that attracts foreign tourists from economically developed countries, but it also creates a tone of part-time/summer-time jobs that in many cases employ an important percentage of the total workforce. And as tourists storm the cheap Mediterranean paradise resorts more and more people try to cover the rapidly increasing demand and that creates a vicious circle of the one-dimensional development approach.
The massive influx of tourists has transformed small villages to cities, old village squares to booming commercial centers etc. As a consequence, the old traditional methods have been completely abandoned in some areas.
Mykonos is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece, attracting million tourists every year. The small island has a surface area of only 85.8 km2 and a mere 10.000 inhabitants and yet it welcomes more than 600.000 people in commercial flights alone. However, Mykonos was not always the must-visit tourist destination that it is nowadays. 60 years ago the primal occupation of the inhabitants of the tiny island was fishing and livestock raising. The narrow alleys were built that way in order to protect the buildings from the windy weather conditions that exist in that area of the Aegean and the only means of transportation were donkeys and small boats. Electricity was unheard of and the only “tourists” were some travelers, mostly artists.
Santorini is another famous Greek island that welcomes millions of tourists every year. The island covers a surface of 90 km2 and has a population of approximately 15.000 inhabitants. For the most part Santorini had always been an important Cycladic Island since ancient times but until the late 70s the locals were mostly engaged in sailing and fishing. The touristic development of the island began in the 1970s and the last few years has reached enormous numbers of visitors. Approximately 2.300.000 people passed through Santorini airport in 2019 where almost half of them came from international flights. Furthermore, the touristic development of the island is evident from the statistics of employment of the local authorities. Specifically, out of the 6.687 employed inhabitants of the island 236 are working on the primary sector, 1.121 are working on the secondary sector and 5.330 are employed by the tertiary sector. The residential situation of the island highlights its overdevelopment due to tourism as well. Out of the approximately 12.000 buildings on the island, almost 40% were built after 1986.
Now do not get me wrong, tourism on its own is not a bad thing but supporting your whole economy on one sector, just because it is easier to promote, is definitely something to reconsider. A central authority should guide the development of the economy evenly securing the viability of its financial structure, promoting all three sectors equally. Simultaneously, tourism should be encouraged mostly for its cultural and experiencing gains rather than its profit-making ability.
- Mykonos, an Island that Once Was, Athens Insider, Available here
- What Happened Here: Mykonos Then and Now, Greece-is, Available here
- Civil Aviation Authority – Santorini Airport, Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of the Hellenic Republic, Available here
- Civil Aviation Authority – Mykonos Airport, Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of the Hellenic Republic, Available here
- Δημογραφικά Στοιχεία, Δήμος Θήρας, Available here