Surge in tourism could threaten Santorini’s unique features, island’s mayor warns

The galloping increase in tourism to Santorini in recent years could prove a threat to the island’s unique architecture and landscape, local mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos said in an interview given in Athens on Tuesay.
Zorzos said that the island’s infrastructure was overstretched as a result of tourism, while the island’s traditional settlements “effectively do not exist” due to rampant development and the conversion of agricultural land to tourism real estate. He noted that Santorini currently has 990 beds per square kilometre and that, at the height of the tourism season, population density on the island was comparable to that of Attica.

He also dwelt on the threat to Santorini’s traditional vineyards, noting that these needed “their own care”.
Water resources were another area of concern raised by the mayor, who said the supply was not sufficient to keep up with demand. Zorzos noted that Santorini now received 1.3 million tourists a year, achieving the year-round tourism season that has so far eluded other destinations in Greece, but this has put a strain on the island’s water supply.
The demand for water in 2014 reached 1,420 cubic metres per days, while in 2015 this number exceeded 2,000 cubic metres per day. For this reason, he said, the island was expecting the construction of a major desalination unit with a budget of 11 million euros that will provide a solution to the water-shortage problem.

Another problem, according to the mayor, was the bureaucracy that currently prevented the municipality from hiring additional staff that it needed, even though it had the necessary funds, in order to cover the island’s increased needs. At the moment, Santorini has a total of 17 police officers.

Zorzos asked for a “redesigning” of tourism policy to cover the island’s greater needs and also urged the protection of specific areas from development, noting that Vlychada was one region that could be designated a National Park.