Greece’s Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, announced that starting September 4th, a cap of visitors to the Athens Acropolis will be imposed.
Mendoni said the controls are needed to prevent bottlenecks and overcrowding at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
She said that the number of visitors will be capped at a maximum twenty thousand daily and will be subject to varying hourly entry limits.
As many as twenty-three thousand people a day have been squeezing into the monument complex, mostly large groups visiting before noon.
“That’s a huge number,” Mendoni said in an interview with the Real FM radio network. “Obviously tourism is desirable for the country, for all of us. But we must work out how excessive tourism won’t harm the monument.”
The implementation of the new policies aims to alleviate the issue of long queues, which has been aggravated by the arrival of massive cruise ships that disembark thousands of passengers at the port of Piraeus, the gateway to the Greek capital.
“In the past, these cruise ships had the capacity to carry a few thousand, the population of a large village,” said Lysandros Tsilidis, the president of the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist and Travel Agencies.
“Now the vessels are so big you’ve got the size of a small state on board and at least 30% of all of those passengers will have pre-purchased tickets to visit the Acropolis,” he continued.
Hourly caps on visitors to Acropolis
There will be no limit on how long visits may last, although Mendoni said people who come with organized tours or from cruise ships, who account for about fifty percent of the daily visitor count, spend an average of forty-five minutes at the site.
Different numbers of visitors will be allowed in hourly during the site’s 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. opening hours. Half of the Acropolis’ foot traffic currently arrives between 8 a.m. and noon, Mendoni said. Under the new system, three thousand people will be granted access from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and two thousand will be allowed in during the following hours. The numbers will vary during the rest of the day.
“The measure will address the need to protect the monument, which is the main thing for us, as well as [improving] visitors’ experience of the site,” she added.
She added that the program will be implemented at all archaeological sites that have electronic tickets from April 1, 2024.
The Acropolis zoning program is being launched on the basis of a study implemented by the Organization for the Management and Development of Cultural Resources (ODAP).
Greek authorities closed access to the Acropolis and other ancient sites during midday hours last month at the height of a heat wave that also caused huge wildfires across the country.
They also installed awnings as sun protection for people lining up to see the Acropolis’ 5th century B.C. temples. Mendoni said those steps would be repeated if necessary.