Santorini has fallen victim to its own success and the Greek government is looking at ways to ease the situation before the island buckles under the strain of looking after an average of two million tourists a year.
The island is not so much a tourist attraction as a magnet for “hypertourism”, ranking among top destinations like Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam all of which have reached saturation point and are looking at sustainable ways to reduce the volume of visitors to their cities.
Santorini, which receives big volumes of visitors even in the winter months, there are proposals to reduce the number of tickets to Oia, the prime location to view the island’ famous sunsets, as well as placing restrictions on cruise ship arrivals and airbnb bookings.
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Also under consideration are proposals to reform town-planning regulations to protect the island’s unique environment and waste-management improvements that could include a ban on single-use plastics.
In 2014, Travel + Leisure magazine chose Santorini as the “World’s Best Island” for its many charms, including its magnificent island views and famous sunsets. The island has also become the darling of social media – selfies with the backdrop of a unique island landscape lit by a magnificent sunset are doing the rounds on Instagram and other to draw ever more visitors.
The island’s mayor Loukas Bellonias said of the phenomenon: “Santorini has a very unique geography that people want to photograph immediately. Social media has turned (it) from just another travel destination into one of the most popular in the world.”