Residents in various European cities, including Athens, are resorting to unconventional tactics to combat overtourism, with grassroots campaigns taking a creative twist. Locals are now employing fake bed bug infestations, complete with official-looking posters, to discourage tourists, particularly those from the UK.
In Athens, this peculiar phenomenon unfolded in early December, targeting short-term rental properties. Posters adorned with what appeared to be an official government logo urged tenants to evacuate immediately, citing a bed bug infestation, or face a hefty €500 fine. This clever ruse has caught tourists off guard, challenging the perception of Greece as a nation known for its hospitality and warmth.
Philippa Unwin, a tourist staying in one of the affected apartments in Athens’ Exarcheia district, expressed her surprise.
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She told The Telegraph: “Greece is the country of filoxenia – love of the stranger – we never thought they could be targeting overseas visitors like this.” Exarcheia, historically associated with activism, has been grappling with the consequences of Greece’s prolonged economic downturn.
The hoax reveals a mounting resentment against short-term rentals, particularly Airbnb, as they contribute to rising prices in Athens and popular Greek islands. Anti-Airbnb graffiti adorns the walls of Exarcheia, with messages like, “Dear Tourist, enjoy your Airbnb. Signed a future homeless Athenian,” and “Flats for immigrants not for Airbnb.”
The frustration is rooted in the economic challenges faced by the younger generation in Greece, often referred to as the “lost generation.” A 25-year-old Athenian lamented, “We are the lost generation – if we want to work we have to leave the country. If we stay, we face poverty, and even homelessness.”
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The perceived lack of regulations governing Airbnb exacerbates this discontent.
In 2021, an activist account on social media, “Exarcheia Tourism #airbnburn,” even posted a video depicting an attack on an Airbnb apartment. While some argue that better regulations would alleviate the situation, others emphasise that Greeks, in general, harbour no ill will toward tourists. However, the prevailing sentiment is that Airbnb’s unchecked growth is displacing locals who can no longer afford rental prices.
As grassroots movements against overtourism gain momentum across Europe, these inventive and attention-grabbing tactics in Athens underscore the urgency for more sustainable tourism practices and robust regulations to protect the interests of local communities.
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