The term hypertourism has recently entered the tourism bibliography and has been used to describe destinations where locals or visitors feel that there is an excessive number of visitors and the quality of life or the quality of experience is degenerating to unacceptable levels. A bibliographic study found that several researchers and organizations were involved in its analysis, as well as its effects on the areas where it is located. However, an exact definition cannot be given due to the lack of commonly accepted indicators for assessing destinations that are either on the verge of being described as hypertouristic or have already passed into this state.
This phenomenon has been sharply criticized, especially in recent years, by scholars and observers, due to the problems it causes in host societies. The massive character and inherent leveling momentum that characterizes hypertourism degrades the area, both for residents and visitors.
The society of the island of Rhodes was faced with serious problems due to the anarchic development of hypertourism, with the consequence that the quality of the offered tourist product and the level of its competitive position are in danger of deteriorating. In the present research, special importance was given to the study of the problems caused by hypertourism’s existence on the island. Through this study it was found that both society and the economy, but mainly the environment have been affected by the development of the phenomenon in recent years.
The effects on society are mainly related to the tendency of the population to leave the primary sector and turn to the tertiary sector, and more specifically to sectors or professions that are directly or indirectly related to or benefit from tourism development, which results in a large dependence of the local economy on tourism activity, which is mainly limited to the summer months, thus creating a strong problem of seasonality in employment. Another social impact that has been identified is the significant increase in the permanent population of the island, which has to do with the rapid development of tourism in Rhodes in recent decades. As for the seasonal population, it is increased during the summer due to the arrival of tourists and guests on the island and the arrival of seasonal workforce, both from nearby islands and from other parts of Greece and abroad. The increase of the seasonal population brings increased needs in terms of water supply, energy and has an impact on urban sewage and waste management.
The massive and intense development of the tourist phenomenon in Rhodes on the one hand has contributed to the dynamic increase in the production of total and per capita GDP at rates higher than the average of the country and on the other hand has dominated the economy of the island creating situations of fragile monoculture. Two new concepts introduced by hypertourism on the island of Rhodes are tour operators (TOs) and all-inclusive contracts, which created a new situation in the local market, mainly in non-hotel companies, which saw the demand for their services and expand their viability to be reduced.
The effects of the environment were found to be more likely to affect the quality of the offered tourist product as well as the quality of life of the permanent residents, compared to the social and economic ones.
More specifically, the over-pumping of water, when the concentration of visitors in an area and the satisfaction of their needs for drinking water, for swimming pools, for the irrigation of golf courses, etc. exceeds the possibilities of natural replenishment of aquifers reserves causes an adverse environmental effect. Significant problems have arisen in the southern part of the country, which is experiencing tourism growth at a significantly higher rate than the northern part (in the area of Kiottari and Lachania), with the result that the pressures in the available waters of the area are intensifying.
Also, the intense development of tourism produces significant amounts of solid and liquid waste. Visitors produce more waste than residents, while a particular problem for the islands is the disposal of waste, resulting in the risk of contamination or environmental degradation.
Another important environmental impact is the degradation of the islands biodiversity. Many NATURA areas in Rhodes face the threat of intense tourist traffic (major tourist infrastructure and tourism-related activities), which endangers the islands protected flora and fauna.
Finally, the degradation of the landscape plays an important role in the degradation of the tourism product. The special decrees for hotels, the provisions for free construction, and the non-introduction of special building conditions in the villages of Rhodes led to the construction of multi-storey hotel units that are in conflict with the scale and architecture of traditional settlements. This resulted in the destruction and alteration of the physiognomy of most of them. In addition to the traditional settlements, landscape degradation is located in the countryside, coastal areas and forest areas, due to the decrees of the off-plan construction. This phenomenon is more intense in the coastal zones of the island, which are characterized by intense urbanization, since most of them are occupied by densely populated tourist areas. As for the urban landscape, its degradation lies in the fact of traffic congestion and noise pollution, phenomena that become more intense during the tourist season, as well as the poor management of public spaces in the city (public green, sidewalks, squares).
The sustainability of a tourist destination is closely linked to the quality of the offered tourist product, which largely depends on its natural and cultural environment. The sustainability of tourism covers many aspects: the responsible use of natural resources, the consideration of the environmental impact of activities (waste production, pressures on water, soil and biodiversity), the protection of cultural heritage and its conservation, the integrity of the destination, the quality and sustainability of the jobs created and the local economic impact.
Rhodes should offer a sustainable and quality offer, highlighting its comparative advantages, especially its natural attractions and its exceptional cultural richness. In order to achieve the improvement of the competitiveness of tourism in the destination, the quality of supply in all dimensions must be strengthened, efforts must be made to restore the seasonality of demand, to diversify the supply of tourism products, to improve the professional qualifications in the sector, to innovate and improve statistics and tourism analysis. A more critical and selective approach to tourism development is a prerequisite for Rhodes to play an important role in the wider Mediterranean region.