The large number of visitors in Greece’s most popular tourist destinations is usually considered a blessing. But the crowds that gathered in some Aegean islands this summer have tested their infrastructure to the limit and raised fears that excessive crowds will, in the end, harm their economy.
The islands of Santorini, Patmos, Naxos, Tzia and others saw more visitors this summer than during the entire pre-pandemic 2019. The results were an almost constant traffic gridlock, large queues to get into restaurants, cafes and bars, crowded narrow lanes, occasional electricity blackouts, water shortages and persistent odors from the overwhelmed sewage systems.
The desire to make up for the lost summer in 2020 was palpable. Still, Paros, for example, found itself hosting 130,000 people in August, 10 times its permanent population, while 30,000 crowded into Patmos, a small island with a permanent population of just over 3,000.
As everyone rushes to take advantage of demand, construction has also been going unchecked. On Paros, for example, 600 building permits were issued this year, most outside town limits.