By Michael Ermogenis*
Two of probably the most acquainted sights for these fortunate sufficient to reside on the cliff face of the Santorini caldera are the dawn arrivals of huge cruise ships and the sundown procession as they depart. Each are lovely to watch.
At dawn they silently glide into what’s the deepest and certainly probably the most lovely pure port on the earth. Many onboard are awake to expertise this ‘once in a lifetime’ view of legendary Santorini from their cabins or the top-decks onboard these typically monumental ships.
At sundown or nightfall, its much more spectacular because the passengers line the decks of the ships taking pictures and having a final take a look at the marvel that’s Santorini, as they majestically sail out of the caldera… their final glimpse being the spectacular sight of Oia glowing at midnight.
Each of those occasions are principally elegantly silent and delightful to watch, movie or photograph. They’re the 2 fantastic bookends of a cruise ship go to to Santorini. The drawback for the island (and the guests), aren’t these bookend occasions … it’s what occurs in between.
The issues begin as quickly as these passengers (at occasions greater than 15,00Zero of them) need to get off their ships and set foot on the island. It’s a course of that may take up to three hours throughout peak season, as they’ve to be collected by native launch boats that may solely carry so many at a time.
These boats feverishly carry passengers to the previous and new ports, in addition to all the best way to Oia (one thing which is prohibited, however they do it anyway). On the previous port they’ve to wait their flip to take the chair-lift up to the primary city and this can also typically take over an hour. Only a few of them will courageous climbing 300 steps into Fira on foot.
Earlier than they’ve even arrived in Santorini they’ve been bought ‘excursions’ for his or her few hours on this fantasy island. The overwhelming majority of them could have purchased an tour that features a ‘visit to Oia’. Why? As a result of they’ve all seen the unimaginable pictures of this magnificent village perched on the cliff face…. however there’s one more reason. Its free! Free that’s, for the cruise strains, the tour operators, the bus operators that make hundreds of thousands yearly from exploiting the extraordinary great thing about this tiny, iconic village.
On the opposite aspect of the island there are extremely vital historic ruins, hundreds of years previous… however the cruise strains don’t like to point out Akrotiri, as a result of it prices cash to get in. Oia is free, leaving them with a much better margin on each tour bought. In different phrases the passengers pay for what cruise strains and tour operators get without spending a dime.
The result’s chaos on the ports and chaos within the buses, all making an attempt to get to Oia on roads that have been constructed for little greater than two donkeys aspect by aspect (fortunately the brand new street on the northern coast of the island is now open and may accommodate the buses invading Oia every day).
Upon arrival they make themselves at house at Oia’s public automotive park. Typically greater than 70-80 buses by 9 a.m. This was by no means given to them…they’ve merely taken it, claimed it as their very own. If residents attempt to park there they’re warned that they may discover their automobiles ‘damaged’ once they return. All this from individuals (bus drivers) who’re parking there totally free…in OUR automotive park !
So the invasion begins round eight.30-9.00 a.m. Hundreds of individuals being led round by typically non-licensed tour-guides by numerous companies to make certain they stroll the unsuspecting vacationers in entrance of their outlets, in order to purchase something from peanuts to low cost (made in China) fridge magnets. The tempo is nearly frantic as they’re solely in Oia for a few hours, so it turns into like a stampede of cattle. The greatest images spots turn out to be like teams of little youngsters preventing over sweet. Its the invasion of the lemmings.
Then its time for an additional stampede, as a result of its time to return to the buses. Not solely is there isn’t a time to cease and luxuriate in what’s arguably probably the most picturesque village on the earth, however there isn’t any time to store, go searching or uncover the actual great thing about the village. They’ll take as many photographs as they will, climb on roof tops, on any church they will get entry to so as to get their ‘fantasy’ photograph, ring church bells for enjoyable, depart us their pre-purchased plastic water bottles, throw their ice cream wrappers virtually anyplace, complain concerning the quantity of ‘steps’ the village has… and get again on their bus to depart (inflicting one other chaotic visitors jam as their buses depart the village).
Its a day by day nightmare for Oia and certainly it can’t be a fantastic expertise for the guests both. However who cares? The cruise line and all of the tour operators have already made their hundreds of thousands… who cares what the customer expertise is like?
There isn’t a method you’re going to discover these particulars in any of the brochures, or the spiel passengers get onboard. Trendy cruises are a commodity recreation… its all about numbers and taking the most important attainable proportion of a passenger’s spending cash. They use a variation of the laser printer enterprise mannequin. They virtually provide the cruise ticket at no cost and proceed to rip you off as soon as you’re onboard (the printer and the ink refills gravy practice mannequin).
This in fact is just the tip of the iceberg for Santorini. Cruise ships are an enormous drawback, however on no account the complete drawback Santorini faces every day. In peak season there’s a flight virtually each 20 minutes and lots of quick ferry arrivals from Athens and different islands, bringing hundreds of further individuals every day. The port (pathetically insufficient to deal with even a fraction of the present every day inflow) is complete chaos. The airport is usually worse. It’s tiny, outdated and virtually solely unfit for its function.
Then there’s the most important most cancers affecting Santorini every day. Regardless of a so-called ‘cap’ on every day arrivals by boat of eight,00Zero, sure operators have discovered loopholes that permit them to convey a further 5,00Zero-6,00Zero individuals every day from Crete and different islands, underneath the guise of ‘day-trip excursions’… which makes them totally different from cruise ship passengers.
In different phrases… these ‘wise guys’ have discovered a method to rip-off 6,00Zero individuals daily, promising the expertise of a lifetime on Santorini. These lemmings (principally Russians from Crete) arrive after noon, within the searing warmth and are handled a lot worse than the cruise passengers. Led by fake guides they’re advised the place to go and what to see (based mostly on who has paid them extra money to deliver the lemmings to his door cease to allow them to purchase vacationer junk). They’re clueless concerning the village they go to and they don’t have time to cease and luxuriate in even a espresso. They actually flood the island for Three-Four hours after which they’re shipped like cattle again the place they got here from. However as soon as once more…who cares. The operators have made their hundreds of thousands. If there’s an overcrowding drawback on Santorini, it’s brought on by these day-trippers and the tour operators that convey them right here every day. It’s an absolute rip-off.
Amid all this every day chaos there are people who find themselves on a vacation of a lifetime. They’ve come to their dream vacation spot to take in the incomparable great thing about Santorini, to discover the island, to style the wines and the fantastic meals, to dine at romantic waterfront tavernas and to watch probably the most unimaginable sunsets on the planet. They typically pay a small fortune to have a room with a caldera view… as a result of it has been a dream for them. Its not about offering an expertise for the wealthy… its about offering an unforgettable expertise for individuals who have chosen to come and keep on the island so as to take pleasure in it, to perceive it and permit it to change them as individuals. However these guests are virtually trampled by the hordes of day trippers.
They will’t take a leisurely stroll, take pleasure in window buying and even take an honest photograph, as a result of the lemmings have already invaded all the things. The island that has the potential to present unimaginable customer experiences is being pressured to present pedestrian, virtually ‘take-away’ degree experiences, as a result of that’s what fits sure gamers.
Social media was the turbo cost for Santorini and lots of different iconic locations. It modified all the things. Santorini is the second most photographed place in Greece (after the Acropolis), however in actual phrases, it has by far the most important social media footprint. As soon as upon a time individuals used to see 5-10 pictures of Santorini a yr (primarily in style and journey magazines & brochures). Now they see hundreds of pictures of the island on Instagram alone… on a weekly foundation. It’s beautiful panorama fuels the creativeness and demand is growing virtually exponentially. However the island’s amenities and infrastructure stay the identical or, in truth, are degrading day by day.
Given the present state of the nationwide Greek authorities (chaotic mess can be the understatement of the century) and the lack of native governments to act independently, it’s time to say ‘Houston… we have a problem’. Moreover… provided that Santorini is the worldwide face of Greece in so some ways… it isn’t simply this island’s drawback. It’s a nationwide drawback.
Is there an answer? We consider so…
* Michael Ermogenis: Precept Administration Marketing consultant – over 25 years for Fortune 500 corporations, Creator of ‘Customer Delight’ normal for enterprise customer support, Strategic advisor to Santorini Chamber of Commerce, Lived in Oia (full time) for 12 years,
Founding member of the Mediterranean Alliance (Venice, Oia, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Rhodes & Crete), Founding member of “Save Oia” Marketing campaign
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