Status: 22/09/2023, 05:52 a.m.
By: Bettina Menzel
Summer snapshot of the island of Corfu in August 2023. © IMAGO/Giorgos Kontarinis / Eurokinissi/ANE Edition
Greece is struggling against the economic consequences of environmental disasters, also with the help of tourism. And still wants to control the flow of travelers.
Athens – First record fires, then historic floods: Greece has had to deal with the worst environmental disasters in the country's history this year. The natural disasters claimed numerous lives, led to severe damage to houses and infrastructure and a slump in annual agricultural production. Around a quarter of Greece's gross domestic product comes from the tourism industry.
A lack of travelers would be an economic catastrophe for the holiday destination. But too much tourism is also harmful. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is looking for a middle way out of the misery.
Greece increases bed tax – especially in luxury hotels: "In times of peace in war"
In view of the recent natural disasters, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sees his country "at war in times of peace". The effects of climate change are clearly visible, the prime minister said, according to AFP on Saturday in Thessaloniki. "Within two weeks, we have experienced the worst forest fires and the worst floods in our history," the Greek politician continued. The reconstruction of the affected areas and the fight against climate change are now his main priority.
For this purpose, the head of government wants to set up a special fund and double it with an additional 300 million euros. The additional money is to come, among other things, from an increase in accommodation fees for tourists – "especially in very expensive hotels". The so-called bed tax should increase by one to six euros per night, the portal TravelDailyNews quotes the head of government. Previously, the fee was 0.5 to four euros – depending on the star category of the hotel.
Greece: Bed tax per night in 2024
1 to 2 stars: 1.5 euros (instead of 0.5 euros as before)3 stars: 3 euros (instead of 1.5 euros as before)4 stars: 7 euros (instead of 3 euros as before)5 stars: 10 euros (instead of 4 euros as before)
Tourism as a mainstay of the economy: Greece grants one week of free vacation to those affected
Mitsotakis cited the imposition of VAT on short-term rentals for those who rent out three properties or more as a further measure to finance the costs of environmental disasters. The Prime Minister is aware of the importance of tourism for his country and shows gratitude: Around 20,000 people had to be rescued from Rhodes in the largest evacuation operation in Greek history. Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis wants to give the affected travelers a week of free vacation next year.
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The Greek government will offer a week of free holidays in Rhodes next spring or autumn to those who had to cut short their holidays because of the fires.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece on ITV in August
How Greece wants to fight overtourism: climate change as an ally
Despite the environmental disasters, tourism in Greece is doing well – almost too well. The holiday destination expects to beat the visitor record from 2019 this year. At that time, 33 million holidaymakers came. There is already talk of overtourism, i.e. exuberant tourism. The concern about this exists, the Prime Minister admitted in a recent speech, according to TravelDailyNews.
At the same time, Mitsotakis emphasized that the secret of tourism is, firstly, to measure the performance of the industry not by arrivals, but by the income that can be generated by higher-income tourism, and secondly, to extend the tourist season. Climate change could even be an ally, the head of government believes. This is because the higher temperatures would allow people to come to Greece even in March, October and November.
Tourists on the Greek resort island of Corfu in August 2023. © IMAGO / ANE Edition
Other countries are also struggling with overtourism and are taking drastic measures. Amsterdam, for example, is fed up with holidaymakers who only come to consume drugs and alcohol and launched a campaign against party tourists.