Published On: Thu, Apr 11th, 2024

‘No more tourism!’ Greece fury as pretty city overrun with British tourists | World | News

Residents in Athens are taking to the streets as an influx of tourism engulfs the Greek capital and pushes many locals out.

The backlash against tourists has included graffiti disparaging foreigners, protests to “mourn the death” of neighbourhoods, and even vandalism and arson.

At one rally last week, protesters chanted: “They are taking our houses while they live in the Maldives”.

Around 6.4 million tourists visit Athens every year, the majority travelling to see the Acropolis and other ancient wonders. 

Greece relies heavily on tourism to prop up its economy, accounting for almost one-fifth of the nation’s GDP in 2022. However, the reliance has sparked a major housing crisis in the capital city. 

More than 40 percent of disposable income in Greece is spent on housing – more than in any other European country. Meanwhile, seven in ten Greeks under the age of 34 still live with their parents.

Many Greeks are forced to move out of the city as real estate companies turn their homes into co-working spaces and Airbnbs for tourists and digital nomads.

Short-term holiday rentals have surged by 500 percent in less than a decade.

Anna Theodorakis told France24 that she was forced out of the Metaxourgio in Athens. She explained: “I think the answer is to go in the streets and block everything and just not do something because people are losing their homes. It is very depressing.”

Ms Theodorakis said that the number of Airbnbs was “wiping out the traditional places” and complained that she felt like “a foreigner in my own country”.

One property developer, Dimitri, who is turning a former warehouse into Airbnbs, admitted the overtourism was damaging the city.

He said: “Eighty percent of this neighborhood are Airbnbs. Tourists who come here want to see the Greek culture, so if no more Greeks are living here, tourists won’t want to come.”

Despite anger on the ground against tourism, the Greek government has refused to relent on its drive for more visitors. This week, Greece launched ‘free’ holidays for tourists who fled 2023 Rhodes wildfires.   

The world first will see the Greek government compensate tourists forced to flee Rhodes after brutal wildfires last year.

The scheme means that up to 25,000 holidaymakers, mainly from Britain, are in line for vouchers to cover a week’s hotel stay.

The Greek tourism ministry’s general secretary, Myron Flouris, said: “It’s been a very complicated process not least, I think, because we’re the first country in the world to do this.”

Some 5,000 holidaymakers have already signed up, officials claim, with many more expected to take up the offer.

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