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Locals in the popular holiday destination of Santorini, Greece, have been forced to live in caves due to the growing numbers of tourists and the rising cost of living on the island.
Santorini, which is a hotspot for British travellers, has a population of just 15,000 people and attracts around two million visitors each year.
The amount of visitors has pushed up the cost of living on the island massively in recent years.
As a result, hospitality workers and even teachers are now being forced to camp out on beaches or in nearby caves to save money, the Telegraph reports.
The issue of over-tourism has intensified in recent years, with tourist levels in Santorini last year almost 60 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
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Many of those visiting have come from cruise ships that regularly stop on the island.
One shopkeeper in the capital Fira said: “Of course we like the money and we want tourism, but these people you see from the cruises are no good for us – they don’t spend money here.
“They have everything on their ships – even souvenir shops – so they just come to wander around and block our streets.”
Dr Lauren Siegel, a senior lecturer in tourism and events at the University of Greenwich, found that tourism in Santorini had caused inflation, making goods and services unaffordable for many locals.
In Santorini, authorities make regular pleas for islanders to ‘adopt’ teachers and medical staff who are unable to find affordable housing.
Teachers are usually expected to spend the first few months of the school term in hotels until the tourist season is over.
Anthi Patramani, president of the secondary education officers’ association on the island, said the cost of housing on the market had put off many teachers.
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She said: “Most teachers don’t want to be sent here. When they come, there is drama.”
Taxi driver Nikos blasted Airbnb and other short-term holiday rental businesses for ruining the island.
Nikos, who regularly works 16-hour days, added: “It was bad before, but now that local people can rent out their houses for lots of money, those of us who work in tourism spend weeks trying to find somewhere.”
He added that some people are “so desperate” that they live in caves, or camp out on the surrounding beaches.
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Santorini is not alone with many other popular European destinations including Prague, Lisbon, and historic Italian cities also suffering from rapidly rising house prices due to Airbnb and other short-term holiday rentals.
In Venice, tourist beds on the islands in the city centre — about 49,000 — exceed the total number of long-term residents.
Giacomo Menegus, a legal adviser to the Italian activist group High Pressure Housing, said: “This has an effect on our cultural heritage. You have not a living city but a sort of Disneyland, or a plastic attraction without people living there. Everything is going to become more or less fake, or very touristy.”
Gkikas Gkikas, the mayor of the Greek island of Ios, said the island faces an often impossible task of finding housing for teachers, doctors, firefighters, and coastguard officers.
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