Greece considers limiting cruise ship visitors amid overtourism concerns

   June 16, 2024 ,   Accidents

Greece is reportedly considering restrictions on the number of cruise visitors to its popular destinations, following similar measures seen in other tourist hotspots.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently mentioned potential restrictions starting next year, causing significant concern in the cruise industry and affecting cruise stock prices. This news comes alongside a report noting a softening in cruise pricing for June.

Tourism plays a crucial role in the Greek economy, with Greek Island cruising, which began in the 1950s, being one of the most popular tourist activities. Greece saw a 50% increase in cruise tourist arrivals in 2023, particularly in Santorini and Mykonos. Cruises typically originate in Piraeus-Athens or from international ports, stopping at these popular islands on voyages ranging from a few days to over a week.

Greece's interisland passenger ferry shipping also remains robust.

Santorini saw 800 vessel calls in 2023, bringing in 1.3 million visitors, a 17% increase over 2022. The influx of tourists has led to long waits and overcrowding, particularly for the cable car that transports visitors from the harbor to the top of the volcanic island. Santorini has been seeking cruise ship controls for nearly a decade due to these issues, exacerbated by the increasing size of the vessels.

Mykonos, another popular destination, had 749 cruise ship visits in 2023, up 23% from the previous year. Prime Minister Mitsotakis suggested that restrictions on cruise ship visits to these islands might start in 2025, possibly through limiting berths or establishing a bidding process for cruise lines to secure slots. This approach is similar to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, which restricts the number of daily cruise ship entries.

Greece joins a list of destinations grappling with overtourism and related issues, such as overcrowded streets and reduced appeal for hotel and guesthouse visitors.

In Europe, Venice has redirected cruise ships away from its lagoon to protect historic buildings, while cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona have moved ships out of city centers.

In the USA, Juneau, Alaska has agreed to regulate daily cruise passengers starting in 2026, with other destinations like Bar Harbor/Maine and Key West/Florida also seeking to limit large cruise vessels.