Despite Greek drama, tourists on their way


Greece might be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons but tourism is, as I predicted in an earlier post, looking up. The Arab Spring has kept travellers away from the Middle East and they’re heading to the  other side of the Mediterranean for summer.

Greece is in turmoil over the economy downgrading to junk status, the streets of central Athens were heaving with protesters on Wednesday and Prime Minister George Papandreou is struggling reach a workable solution for his government in the face of a decision on austerity measures, because without them, Greece is not going to get any more help out of its debt pit.

Greece’s economy is now the lowest rating in the world, behind Ecuador, Jamaica and Pakistan. The Greek drama has battered stock markets worldwide as well.

However tour company Thomas Cook reports an upswing of 13 per cent for bookings for Greece, compared to 2010, The Guardian says. Greece’s tourism industry is the world’s 21st biggest by value, generating $US12.7 billion of revenue last year and employing 298,000 people out of a total population of about 11 million. Portugal is just behind, with a $US10 billion industry employing 406,500 people.

Unrest in the Greek capital last year resulted in several deaths and hotel cancellations of up to 20 per cent.


The current crisis may result in some tourists steering clear of Athens, but on the ever popular Greek islands, you are far enough away from the shouting to enjoy your vacation unfettered. The beaches are still hot, the ancient sites retain their magic, the Ionian Sea and the Aegean are still sparkling, and the beers are on ice with the kalamari sizzling in the pan. The mood, by contrast, is thunderously dark for Greeks. The air traffic controllers and airlines refused to join the strikes because it’s peak tourist season. Greece has a tourist economy it needs desperately and it needs to keep running. Some tourism businesses are already on their knees due to poor seasons in 2009- 2010.

After I posted this story on June 16, about a dozen queries to this blog on Friday, June 17 asked if Athens is safe for tourists. Television news shows protest banners decorating Syntagma (Constitution) Square in the dead centre of the Greek capital, opposite Parliament. Some protesters have been camped there for weeks. But it also shows the nearby historic area of Plaka bustling with tourists, and ordinary Greeks strolling through Syntagma as usual. Wednesday’s large demonstration was largely peaceful, with a small group of protesters engaged in violence, and that’s the type of thing that grabs the headlines. Fellow blogger Global Greek World, who works in central Athens, says everything is back to normal.

No doubt there are worry lines around the eyes of Greeks welcoming travellers. Any nation facing the kind of long-term austerity measures that look inevitable, is likely to find it hard to plaster on a smile for visitors. Restaurateur Georgia Gerardis of Ammoyiali on the island of Rhodes (pictured left) says this season is critical for Greek tourism, and she’s working doubly hard. “The whole of Greece is affected. We can’t go through another summer tourist season like this past one…”

Disclosure of conflict of interest: I lived in Greece for many years and experienced turmoil on par with what is going on today. Greece has a strong history of political protest when the chips are down.

CHECK LIST:

-Strikes usually affect opening hours of archaeological sites and transport other than airlines
-Wi-Fi is widely available so you can keep up to date with events that may affect travel around Greece
-Use foreign-based news reports if Greek journalists are striking, which may affect locally produced English-language news  sources
-Try the BBC World Service, CNN International,  or Twitter (!)
-More on Georgia Gerardis
-Useful Greek blog: Global Greek World

7 thoughts on “Despite Greek drama, tourists on their way

  1. Great post Heather! Thanks for the mention! The aganaktismenoi /indignados gatherings at Syntagma Square have been totally peaceful and continue to be so. The violence that flared up on Wednesday during the massive general strike was inflamed by the presence of hooded thugs who started hurling stones and sticks provoking the MAT – Greece’s riot police to interevene, and one thing led to another. Yesterday everything was back to normal.
    BTW, You might like to tell your readers that there is a site which keeps us all updated on who and what is on strike in Athens/Greece… http://www.apergia.gr
    🙂

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  2. If Greece defaults then all the tourists on earth will not save it. Greece borrowed the money, it needs to pay it back. If it mismanaged what it borrowed, then it needs to change itself internally to cope with modern financial realities.

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  3. Yes, and apergia.gr is a copycat website created after livingingreece.gr/strikes, which is also where you got some of the information for your post without giving credit.

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    1. Hi Nikos, your claim I have lifted information without credit is false. I have not visited the livingingreece website for any information regarding Greek strikes, which the site should verify through its tracking application. There is a great deal of information on this subject freely available in thousands of news stories worldwide and generally well-known facts need not be attributed. I always attribute sources on specific information. If you are referring to Global Greek World, please address the issue directly.

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  4. Sorry, but cannot for the life of me see where Global Greek World comes into this discussion. Is Nikos accusing us of something? We have nothing to do withwww.apergia.gr and have no idea if it was copied as a concept from Living in Greece – a great site which we have included in our blogroll BTW

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  5. I’m going on holiday to Crete on the 30th of this month and wondering how affected will I actually be during my stay (2 weeks)?

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    1. Hi Tom, thanks for your query. A general strike, also affecting airlines and traffic controllers, has been called for June 28-29, which means there will be a backlog of flights to clear by June 30. General strikes always hit transport hard, except for one earlier this month when traffic controllers and airlines declined to join in. Please check with your airline about possible delays. Aegean Air is rescheduling over 100 international and domestic flights.
      There have also been rolling strikes in individual sectors, which look set to continue. Islands are not affected by unrest in Athens, but may be affected by transport sector stoppages in the general strike which will affect ports, island-bound ferries and island bus services. If you are going to Crete by ferry you may experience a delay due to a backlog of passsengers. I will be posting an updated story over the next couple of days, as many holidaymakers are due in Greece in July.

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