On Monday, Greece imposed limits on the number of visitors to the Acropolis to prevent overcrowding in Athens’ most famous landmark.
A new booking website now keeps track of tourists at the Acropolis while enforcing an hourly time slot to tackle overcrowding and preserve the archaeological site.
“Obviously tourism is desirable for the country, for all of us,” Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told Greek radio last week. “But we have to find a way of preventing overtourism from harming the monument.”
The new system, which rolled out Monday, will cap Acropolis visits to twenty thousand tourists a day and be used at other Greek sites, beginning in April.
Access will be granted to three thousand visitors between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., followed by two thousand each subsequent hour.
Mendoni said the Acropolis, which sits on a rocky hill in Athens and houses a collection of ruins, structures, and artifacts, including the Parthenon temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, currently sees up to twenty-three thousand visitors per day. She called this an “enormous number.”
Large number of visitors to the Acropolis creates bottlenecks
The tourists create bottlenecks and “unpleasant conditions for the site, the visitors and the staff who are trying to accommodate this high volume of people,” Mendoni added.
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. These 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 percent of all of those passengers will have pre-purchased tickets to visit the Acropolis,” he continued.
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.
Greek authorities closed access to the Acropolis and other ancient sites during midday hours in July at the height of a heat wave that also resulted in 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 precautions would be implemented once again as necessary.