CULTURE

Tourism rises in Ancient Olympia and Katakolo

Despite the ongoing crisis, tourist activity in the broader area of Ancient Olympia has risen this year, with a considerable increase in the number of cruise-ship arrivals at the Peloponnesian port of Katakolo in Ilia being one of the main contributing factors.

In order to support increasing tourist activity, local authorities and tourist industry professionals operating in the area are asking for improvements to be made to the area?s overall infrastructure.

Speaking to Kathimerini, the president of the Municipal Port Authority of Katakolo, Dimitris Apostolopoulos, noted that the number of cruise ships docking at the town?s marina will reach 460 by the end of the year, carrying a total of some one million passengers, he said.

Asked if the rise in cruise arrivals is in part due to the civil unrest in a number of northern African countries, Apostolopoulos noted that out of the 460 ships, 428 were scheduled arrivals and only 32 were unexpected. Last year, 360 cruise ships carrying 736,000 passengers made their way to the Peloponnesian port.

So far this year, the majority of cruise-ship passengers are coming from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, while there is also a rise in visitors stemming from Latin American countries.

Katakolo, said Apostolopoulos, is Greece?s second-largest port after Piraeus in terms of cruise arrivals, though he stressed that improvements to the infrastructure and safer mooring conditions are imperative.

The local economy has also benefited from the cruise arrivals in that many passengers who do not have enough time to visit Ancient Olympia on their itinerary end up spending what time they have in the town. Most passengers, however, do make it to the site, which this year has seen a 20-percent increase in the number of visitors.

According to the deputy mayor of Ancient Olympia, Giorgos Georgakopoulos, the absence of a large parking lot in the town of Katakolo has led to major losses in revenue, as a number of tourists end up visiting the archaeological site only.

The distance between the port town and the ancient site is 30 kilometers, or a 40-year minute drive, which in parts takes visitors past garbage dumps and decrepit constructions.

According to Georgakopoulos, a train connection between Katakolo and Ancient Olympia could provide a solution to this problem.