“Patience” is the operative word in many conversations these days on Santorini – patience, and a restrained optimism that from early July the island will gradually reopen for tourism, and thus salvage whatever it can from a season that at the outset of the pandemic appeared would be entirely lost.
Ordinarily at this time of year – in mid-May with temperatures grazing 30 degrees C (86 F), and the volcanic terrain of Santorini carpeted in wildflowers, the tourism “machine” of one of the most famous islands in the world would be revving its engines.
In April of 2019 almost 30,000 visitors arrived on the island through air travel alone, in May 60,000, and in June 90,000. These days there is only an unnatural stillness.
It’s quite the irony: in theory this would be the best time to enjoy Santorini, to hike its routes, to explore its villages, to swim in its waters, to discover its history, to taste its local products and its unique wines.
Internationally, there is a growing chorus of experts who maintain that the new reality being shaped by COVID-19 will constitute a breakwater against the “tsunami” of over-tourism which has negatively impacted Santorini, among other destinations. Could this perhaps be an opportunity for the island to reposition itself in the global market, to eschew record-setting numbers of mass arrivals and cruise visits, and aim instead for discerning, high-spending travelers? There are no easy answers, nor miracle solutions. What is certain is that a meaningful dialogue among all of the island’s key stakeholders needs to begin – and yesterday.
For the time being, let us focus on the undiluted beauty of Santorini, as revealed in a new video tribute to the island, which highlights 20 aspects that set it apart. The 3-minute film, featuring impressive aerial drone shots, underwater footage and more is the result of a collaboration between two young people who live on the island and are leaders in the efforts to protect its environment and historical memory.
One of them is Lefteris Zorzos who, in addition to running the hotel Voreina Suites in Pyrgos has taken on the task of preserving and digitizing photographs of old Santorini through the Santorini Archive Project. The second is Nikos Korakakis, a videographer and graphic designer who moved permanently to the island many years ago.
I recall something Nikos told me during an interview for our print issue Greece Is Santorini 2018: “Santorini is blessed. Though it has endured many difficulties, it always manages to turn the situation to its advantage. I don’t know if this is due to the energy of the place or to the people. I imagine it’s the former. You feel it the moment you arrive.”
“We wanted to send a positive message to the world,” Lefteris Zorzos says now of the new video. “It is a volunteer effort for the good of the island, a response to the misery of these days, our small contribution for Santorini’s return.”
Watch the video above.