Authorities on the island of Santorini are introducing a system to manage the flow of cruise traffic to the popular destination, which will allow a maximum number of 8,000 passengers per day, following a study on its capacity.
Hellenic Port Association data showed that in 2015 Santorini received 636 cruise vessels, topping all Greek destinations and leaving Piraeus port in second place. The number of cruise passengers who arrived on the island came to 790,000 from ships mooring at Athinios and Fyra ports.
The Municipality of Thira and the island’s Municipal Port Fund asked the University of the Aegean to research the issue. The study found that the local community is aware of the social, economic and environmental pressures created by overcrowding from cruise passengers, particularly given the uneven spread of traffic.
In the peak May-to-October season , some 90 percent of the year’s arrivals were recorded on Santorini. On a daily basis the island saw an average of 3.6 cruise ship arrivals with an average 4,000 passengers disembarking. However, there were days when Santorini received over 10,000 passengers and others when traffic was near zero.
The study also found that some 10 percent of cruise passengers did not disembark at all, and this share is bigger when vessels stay at a destination for just a short period of time. Another 40 percent of passengers took part in one of the tour packages offered by the cruise companies. This compares with the 30 percent average rate of passengers who took up such an option for other Greek destinations.
The cruise passenger rationing system has two aims: First to ensure that the island does not receive more passengers than it can serve with efficiency and quality; and second, to ensure a distribution of traffic across weekdays to avoid days with excessive arrivals. To that end the cruise ship traffic management system will rely on specific parameters: It will choose the optimum combination of arrivals per day so as not to exceed the limit, while allowing for less popular days to arrange more arrivals.
Port fund president Ilias Pelekis told Kathimerini that for this year only there will be more flexibility in the system, given that cruise operators have drafted their schedules many months in advance.