The Cyclades’ problems of popularity

They are the symbol of summer in Greece and, along with Crete, are the country’s most well-known destination for holidaymakers. Every summer, the Cyclades are a battlefield for coastal shipping firms. According to a study by XRTC, every year more than 4.8 million passengers travel to the Eastern Cyclades (Syros, Tinos, Myconos) on high-speed, state-of-the-art vessels. Speed is money, however, and voyages to some destinations cost more than three days’ accommodation. Even on conventional ships, the deregulation of fares has raised the prices in economy class by 10 percent over the last few years. It is no coincidence that the Greek Consumer Center has estimated an 8.9 percent increase in the total cost of an island holiday for a family of four (a week’s holiday will cost on average 2,380 euros). The southern Aegean islands (Cyclades and Dodecanese) expect to receive hundreds of thousands of visitors this year. In 2005, 1,835,779 tourists (1,458,189 of them foreigners) visited these islands. Yet the number of hotel beds has declined from 109,017 in 2004 to 99,738, while the number of people staying in campsites has more than doubled from 5,365 to 13,346. The latter increase was partly due to the economic crisis and partly to excessive hotel prices. The Cyclades continue to suffer from a lack of basic infrastructure, such as sewerage systems and waste treatment plants, not to mention natural resources such as water supplies. Tons of water are drawn daily from thousands of wells in order to meet the increased demand in the summer. Meanwhile, nothing has been done to collect rainwater. Yet the No. 1 threat to the islands’ future seems to be the enormous pressure for construction.