Greek tourism urges visitors to come on over

Mykonos Greece


Mykonos Greece
Mykonos always looks magical

The sun still shines, beaches are gorgeous, beer is cold and ancient ruins mostly standing. If you want to help Greece get out of the financial snake pit, go there. If you don’t give a toss, by going there you will inadvertently help anyway.

Greek tourism operators are slashing prices up to 50 per cent to encourage people to come. Two offers in Germany: €982 for an originally €2,120 seven-day vacation in Corfu, a €2,220-euro visit to Rhodes for €1,074. Return flights to Greece in July from the UK now cost £181 on average, down from £335 this time last year, according to deals website Skyscanner. Return fares with outbound late August, Australia-Greece, can be found for $A1803 on a combo of Etihad and Aegean Air.

Even rock bottom Ryan Air is offering discounted domestic fares around Greece.

“What Greece needs now, more than ever, are tourism dollars — so don’t cancel your trip just yet,” Condé Nast Traveler advises.

Many people – returning Greeks as well as foreigners – have cancelled  trips as the Greek debt crisis enters uncharted territory with bailout conditions a hot potato in the Greek Parliament. Anti-austerity protests are vigorous and will continue to be so.

The situation was jittery when it looked as though a Grexit was on the cards. The third bailout in five years looks more likely so the situation has settled a little. Incidents of tourists disadvantaged by the crisis are now hard to find. UK travel association ABTA, which represents travel agents and tour operators, says bookings to Greece are  up 2 per cent from last year, reports the (dreadful) Daily Mail. British holidaymakers have diverted their plans for Tunisia, following the terrorist beach massacre there.

Greeks are annoyed at the way media portrays the crisis. Dimitris Sarris from Hotel Liotopi, Olympiada, Halkidiki says the image of chaos is damaging.

“I received an email today from a couple asking if there was still water in our country. We stay calm and explain that the situation is not like that,” he told The Guardian.

Glyfada 5 copy 2
Coastal Athens suburb of Glyfada

Travel Tips for
Greek tourism

  • Make sure your travel/health insurance is current. The last thing Greece needs is a sick foreigner leaning on their strained health system
  • There may be some transport or civil servant strikes as bailout measures are debated. Info, see StrikeInformer
  • There will be downtown Athens protests over austerity measures. Check the news and avoid the area while they’re on
  • Take euros. While most ATMs will be fully stocked again in more densely populated areas, in more remote regions cash is king.
  • VAT has now gone up to 23% – one of the bailout conditions
  • The demand for cash is outstripping that of credit cards. Always ask for tax receipts
  • If you’re carrying more cash than usual, keep it safe. Yeah, that means wearing one of those old fashioned bum bags/money belts again
  • Imported foods will be in short supply so eat Greek! The Mediterranean diet is good for you
  • Book your flights and hotels separately. Pay in cash for your hotel when you get there – it will be cheaper
  • Aegean Air is having a sale. Take advantage of it
  • Shop local and buy locally produced food and products. Greeks will adore you for that
Tourist bags, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Fancy a bag? Lindos, Rhodes

The Greek populace is wrestling with the biggest financial, political and social changes in decades. But Greeks will do what they have always done – no matter what the hell is going on, hospitality never wavers. Greek tourism is the economy’s lifeblood.

Tourist Bus on Syntagma Square, Athens
Tourist bus in central Athens

Greek debt crisis
 in a
(almost) nutshell

  • An estimated €40 billion is believed to have been withdrawn from accounts since the start of 2015 – with much of it ending up tucked away in homes. When the banks opened on Monday after three weeks closure, there was no rush on withdrawals. Possibly because Greeks knew the fear of being ejected from the Eurozone had passed for now.
  •  There’s been so much upheaval over the past month, it wouldn’t surprise me if some were suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after their heads stop spinning at the turn of events.
  • Costas Isychos, the former deputy defence minister who resigned over the measures, says: “The coping strategies of a large part of society ran out long ago…. I believe large parts of society will fight back.”
  • The Greek economy, already sluggish, is expected to contract by 5 per cent by the autumn. Banks will face stress tests over their solvency. Huge withdrawals are likely to continue and by September the economic slowdown will be keenly felt. September is a marvellous month to visit Greece, by the way.
  • Despite Greece capitulating to Eurozone demands, a fair number of Greeks are furious with Syriza’s sell-out, as they see it. The new left-wing government’s key policy was an anti-austerity platform, unable to be maintained. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was able to unite opposition parties to get behind his deal with the Eurozone, raising both ire and support. It has also served to decimate opposition strength for the short term.
  • The furious who are anti-austerity supporters want a return to the drachma. It’s widely believed Greece is financially too fragile to withstand such a massive change.
  • Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani resigned amid allegations her mother withdrew €200,000 from her Cretan bank acount one day before capital controls were imposed.
  • Social unrest – apart from the lunatic anarchist fringe firing up its usual downtown tantrums and vandalism – hasn’t occurred. YES and NO marches over the referendum were vociferous but conducted civilly. As Greek blogger friend Maria Verivakis says, without a trace of irony: “Greeks are not a violent race, we don’t kill for our rights, we fight for them!”
  • The prospect of Greece entering a third bailout program and the payment of the country’s overdue tranche to the International Monetary Fund has given Standard & Poor’s the grounds for raising the country’s (dismal) credit rating by two notches, the English-language version of Ekathimerini reports.

This crumbling ruin (pictured below) always has a great experience in Greece, and she’s lived there in good times and bad.

Delphi 1
The fossil enjoys ancient Delphi


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