The huge success the island enjoys now that it has become a year-round tourist destination might turn against us, says Santorini Mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos.
The mayor of Greece’s most popular island internationally spoke to the Athens Macedonia News Agency about the popularity of the island that extends beyond the summer season and the problems that arise from having to cater to an ever-increasing number of visitors.
“We invest and support this initiative, as our island is a destination that is not based on the sun and the sea. Cultural heritage, antiquities, architecture, geo-environment, the volcano, gastronomy are its basic and special characteristics. Features that can be enjoyed all year long and even more so off-peak,” Zorzos said.
“In the last three years of this initiative, we have seen a significant increase in open businesses, whether we are talking about accommodation, shopping, or restaurants. In the first year of the initiative, about 35 accommodation facilities were left open after the summer season, the next one around 100, while last year the number reached 150. This year we expect more tourist businesses to stay open,” Zorzos added.
However, the Santorini mayor is concerned over the ability of the island to sustain its beauty in the long run: “Santorini is a very popular destination. But we have come to the point that if we do not do anything, the success will return as a boomerang against us. Santorini is a small island of only 77 sq. km and in 2015 only 11% of that was built on. A percentage that can only be compared with the prefecture of Attica,” he said.
“So we have to stop all this. Stop and see what we can do to protect and preserve our uniqueness. The challenges we face are many. We are an island with urban problems: traffic, large increase in demand for water and energy, high pollution, housing problems and so on. Issues that need to be addressed from the beginning as the situation has changed. Today – although our effort has begun in the last 2-3 years – we are asking the central government to set up an institutional framework through which the area can be preserved, protected and developed based on its own unique characteristics. Without an institutional framework, I fear that uncontrolled “development” will continue and will lead the island to irreversible situations,” Zorzos warns.