Irish writer says tourism and development will kill Corfu, Greece

ATHENS — Tourism is the goose that could kill Greece — overtourism is spoiling the reason people visit — especially for the popular island of Corfu which is being developed, the Irish writer Richard Pine – who lives in Greece – said he fears.

Writing in The Irish Times, he noted how determined Greek governments are to sell land to developers, particularly in Corfu, where 5-star hotels and luxury resorts are scooping up prime land and beaches for the wealthy. .

At the same time, tourism – which accounts for up to 25% of Greece’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) of 197.26 billion euros ($214.9 billion) – is being so exploited that it threatens to bring financial ruin and not prosperity, he indicated.

While worrying about Corfu and the popular islands, he noted that Athens, once shunned, used as a starting point, has become so trendy and with an attractive buzz that there has been a 500% increase in recent times. years in short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

He said this was shown in a study which referred to the “maximum number of people who can visit a tourist destination without causing negative effects on the natural, economic and socio-cultural environment”.

He said: ‘In Athens, and many other hotspots, that number has already been exceeded’, and even the government fears that the infrastructure of some particularly popular islands cannot handle it, as they try to attract tourists elsewhere.

He pointed out that Corfu attracted some 1.7 million tourists by air in 2022 as the government lifted health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention tens of thousands of people who frequently spill from ships. cruising.

“We are repeatedly told that the absence of a coordinated overall plan will ultimately destroy the very product that is Greece’s most valuable industry. Greece, once the starting point of democracy and philosophy, is now just a destination,” he said.

He said the warnings are ignored “for the same reason that the natural beauties of the islands are overbuilt: greed. Greek tourism is now a victim of its own success, with money being the only object.

Tourism on some islands is so lucrative that virtually everyone works in a related business catering to foreign arrivals, particularly in Corfu as well as Mykonos and Santorini, he wrote, making them addicted.

“Without tourism, which contributes more than 25% of gross domestic product, Greece would be economically dead. With tourism, it is in danger of social and cultural death. How can the quality of life of people living permanently in Greece be protected and maintained if the uncontrolled expansion of tourist numbers and behavior is encouraged? ” He asked.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pushed ahead with the developments, sparking anger in Corfu over top seats being sold to foreign companies whose stations allegedly cater to foreigners, not Greeks.

“Corfu, like Venice, is becoming an inhospitable place for its own inhabitants. In the village where I live, the two year-round taverns have closed for the winter, as the passing trade has become more lucrative, and therefore more important, than the local custom. The village risks becoming a centerpiece rather than a living organism,” he said.
He concluded: “Soon, homogenization will transform Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, even Athens, into mere destinations, indistinguishable to all but discerning visitors – themselves a dying breed,” and farewell Greece.

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