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Mykonos pays the price of popularity

Mykonos island waterfront

The Greek island of Mykonos is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean but there is a heavy price to pay for popularity.

But popularity comes at a price. Not only has the Greek island has seen a staggering 20% rise in tourist numbers this year it has also seen an unprecedented rise in prices and a massive increase in new hotel and apartment building, much of it illegal.

The average rental price of a luxury villa on Mykonos this season was €10,500 per week. In August this year, the cheapest single room in Mykonos main town cost, no bigger than a broom cupboard, costs €120 a night.

This summer, some of the top island restaurants demand a minimum €10,000 a table. Admittedly tables come with private chefs and luxury cars to ferry guests to their yachts and helicopters but even so; It is harder to find higher prices on luxury Mediterranean resorts like Cannes and St Tropez.

Tourist visitors to Mykonos report higher prices in the tavernas, bars and clubs, around 50% higher than other popular islands such as Crete and Rhodes with average room rental around double that on nearby Paros or Naxos.

Mykonos gets very crowded from April to November. The island has its beaches but this is at heart a party island and a big draw for visitors from all over Europe

There are relatively cheap places to stay on Mykonos but they are of lower quality and will not be in the best locations. Out of season visitors will pay less but many of the attractions shut down at the end of summer.

Island council officials are increasingly concerned at the amount of illegal building going. Concrete lorries are often heard at night. There have been police crackdowns on the illegal building but there are too few officers to track down offenders.

And illegal construction is not a new problem for Mykonos. The profits to be made for renting or sale heavily outweigh the fines that are imposed. A four-bed villa overlooking Agios Stefanos beach, for example, will cost more than €3 million and a one-bed townhouse in Mykonos Chora is on the market for €200,000.

But locals have been complaining about indiscriminate building for years. As long ago as 1989 the island newspaper was warning of illegal construction in Platis Gialos and other beaches but it failed to stem the building boom.

Around 40 residential building permits for new hotels have been issued on Mykonos so far this year with at least another 50 in the pipeline as entrepreneurs continue to cash in on the seemingly insatiable demand.

But the rocketing demand and soaring prices have triggered social problems for the locals and for the seasonal workers in the bars and restaurants hoping to find somewhere cheap to live.

With monthly average rents of Mykonos average at €4,800 euros and rising to €6,500 in high summer season workers are forced to share bunk beds in tiny windowless rooms.

Mykonos remains one of the most tourism-driven islands in the Aegean Sea and is famous for its cubed whitewashed houses that climb the hillsides and for its splendid beaches, mostly lying along the south coast.

The organised summer beach parties are famous throughout the world and its a favourite haunt of cruise ships which can unload thousands of visitors every day.

Mykonos may have its 24-hour party population but the island is still small compared to clubbing islands in the Mediterranean such as Ibiza. But it does attract the rich and famous with regular visits from movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Lindsay Lohan as well as social media performers like the Kardashians.

Greece's economic problems appear to have escaped Mykonos which is covered in five-star resorts that host celebrity guests such as Mel Gibson and Sharon Stone although many stars choose to dock their mega-yachts in Mykonos harbour.

The centre is crammed with outlets for luxury brands and international restaurants such as London's Hakkasan and the Buddha-Bar of Paris now have tables on Mykonos, so the celebrities can feel at home.

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