ATHENS/SYDNEY - The World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage (WTACH) has commenced a study into the tourism carrying capacity of Athens in a new partnership with the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA).
WTACH will set the parameters and guide the research, which is being carried out in cooperation with the University of Piraeus' Department of Tourism Studies.
The objective is to raise awareness of the tourism carrying capacity of greater Athens, especially in peak season, with the view to easing pressure on the city’s urban infrastructure and better spreading the benefits of tourism, both geographically and throughout the year.
Pre-Covid, multiple cruise ships often arrived on the same day in peak season. Localised spikes in tourism numbers, not just from cruise passengers, have the potential to compromise the ability of Athens to provide sustainable, safe, and accessible tourism experiences, throughout the city, which is known for world-famous attractions such as the Acropolis, National Archeology Museum, the Roman Agora and the Plaka and Anafiotika neighbourhoods.
The study will address these challenges and make recommendations.
The research will canvas the opinions of local residents groups, local tourism-related associations, relevant business leaders, and civil servants.
“There’s never been a study like this before in Athens,” said Carolyn Childs, founder of MyTravelResearch.com, WTACH Advisory Panel member, and the lead research consultant for the project.
“The research will help the people of Athens secure the destination management the community deserves,” she said. “That process will be inclusive. The aim is to reach a more holistic view of what is right for Athens.”
Depending on the outcomes, the findings may be useful as a tool to lobby political leaders to secure improved tourism management policies.
Mr Vangelis Vlachos, CEO of ADDMA, said that the study will provide vital empirical data showing the impact of the visitor economy on the Greek capital. The research would also give the city an “important new destination management tool”.
“We believe that quality of life is our most valuable cultural asset and that it can help grow tourism in Athens, but only if we treat this heritage carefully so that it is accessible to everyone,” said Mr Vlachos.
He described the project as a “milestone” in the evolution of ADDMA. “I am confident we will learn valuable lessons showing how we can sustainably grow tourism.”
Chris Flynn, CEO of WTACH, said that the partnership with the University of Piraeus was indicative of the value WTACH members could add to culture and heritage destinations.
“WTACH is helping Athens build the future its people want to see in a post-Covid world,” said Flynn.
Athens attracted 6.4 international million tourists in 2019, up from 3.1 million in 2009, according to Athens International Airport.
Preliminary findings from the WTACH / University of Piraeus study are expected to be ready in Q2 2022.