Greece is known the world over for its historic sites, sparkling sea, and lovely, vine-shaded restaurants. Add riot police, shuttered banks, and lines at cash machines and the picture clouds.
This is the reality facing tourism in Greece this year, as the peak summer season in the popular destination is threatened by a financial crisis of frightening proportions. Up until now, the charming cafes and outdoor restaurants near the Acropolis have remained overflowing with tourists, but considering the bad publicity of the past week’s events, many businesses say they are beginning to see cancellations and a slowdown in reservations.
“Our future bookings are down 20 to 30 percent,” said Edward Fisher, who owns and operates Athens Backpackers and Athens Studios, with prime locations near the Acropolis that cater mostly to youthful travelers without mega-budgets.
He blamed the global media for the marked slowdown, and said he believes it will only be a “temporary blip” because of Greece’s timeless appeal.
“There’s something mystical about Greece,” said the Australian who started his business 12 years ago. “It tickles a different sense. (…) So we’re not panicking. But I want to avoid a humanitarian crisis here.”
Tourism and the foreign funds it generates are vital for Greece’s hoped-for recovery from its deeply indebted state. The World Travel and Tourism Council said tourism’s direct contribution to the Greek economy was more than 29 billion euros ($32 billion) in 2014, accounting for just over 17 percent of the country’s GDP.
As such, the Greek National Tourist Board is taking steps to reassure tourists that their credit cards and bank cards will work normally and that restrictions applied to Greek citizens will not apply to visitors. Lyssandros Tsilidis, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, maintained an optimistic view, saying tourism figures are holding steady nationwide.
source: Gregory Katz, Associated Press