With tourism key to the recovery of Greece’s ailing economy, this summer’s holiday season is crucial; but according to people working in the industry things are not looking good.
This was supposed to be another record year, with travel to Greece boosted by geopolitical tensions particularly in Turkey and Egypt but many visitors have been put off by widely broadcast images of refugees from the middle east.
Restaurant owner Manolis Leousis on the island of Aegina, close to Athens, was hoping for a good season, but says his restaurant has been empty most days.
He told Euronews: “We’ll have a problem this year. Foreigner visitors tell us clearly that they don’t want to see refugees wandering around, from beach to beach and from port to port. The Austrians, the Germans, the Swedish are already facing that a lot in their countries.”
Places like Aegina are suffering, even though they are a long way from the front line islands for migrant arrivals from Turkey such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos.
‘How can I make it?’
Aegina hotel owner Thomas Haldaios says there are few visitors and combined with increased expenses, and higher taxes that is killing his business: “There wasn’t a single person staying in my hotel yesterday. It is empty. I didn’t have a single customer. Not a single one. Tell me, how can I make it? Only August is left, let’s say I have business for 15 or even 25 days. How can the hotel make it? How can my business cover the expenses for the whole year? It’s not possible! Do the maths, they show we’re heading for a shutdown.”
Britain’s vote to leave the EU, which has pushed down the value of the pound against the euro, has only added to the problem.
As one British visitor said, no one knows how it will impact tourism: “[Brexit] will change plans for travel. If they introduce the old visa system, if the pound does not stabilise with the euro, it will change a lot of things for a lot of people. But at the moment it is absolute chaos, nobody can give you a straight answer.”
The picture is mixed and some western Greek islands, such as Corfu and Kefalonia, report business is booming, but our Athens Business correspondent Symela Touchtidou says a lot is at stake for the future of the Greek economy: “If someone is looking for a job, or wants to start their own business, tourism is one of the very few sectors that give hope of survival in Greece. How well things go this year is not just crucial for the recovery of the economy, but it will also determine how much Greek entrepreneurship can endure, faced with so many challenges.”