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To Visit or Stay Away: The Greece Question

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Athens awaits. Photo: Http2007
Athens awaits. Photo: Http2007

Tourism in Greece hasn’t fared at all badly this past year or two. Indeed, in 2011 visitor numbers were very buoyant as travelers who might otherwise have taken vacations in Egypt or Tunisia opted instead for Greece. Greece was a key beneficiary of the Arab Spring.

Germany shuns Greece

Yet over the past year, Greek hotel prices have generally drifted down. A key driver here has been the growing German antipathy to all things Greek. News reports last weekend suggest that German bookings for Greek destinations are down well over a third on this time last year.

The German voter has yet to fully appreciate that Germany has itself been one of the primary architects of the Greek tragedy. To many observers across Europe, the high-principled Teutonic zeal with which many ordinary Germans now seek to punish Greece is very unbecoming.

The absence of Germans this year creates a big dent in the Greek tourism market, but we should remember that the growing Russian affection for Greece will certainly help plug that gap. Tourism makes up about one fifth of Greece’s GDP, but that broad figure masks substantial regional variations. The islands are of course more conspicuously affected than the mainland by any dip in the tourist trade.

Incentive planners don’t like uncertainty, so corporate junkets to Greece for the 2012 season are well down. But what does all this mean for the average punter?

Greece deserves a visit

Our view is that 2012 is most definitely a year when Greece deserves a look. The mid-June elections are likely to produce a government (though it may not be one that is willing to dance to Germany’s tune). Greeks are famously tolerant and traditionally give any incoming government a decent period of grace. All the prospects are that the upcoming peak tourism season will be peaceful.

Yes, Greece may slip quietly out of the euro, but we must recall that the majority of Greeks still seem keen to remain members of Europe’s premier currency. If you happen to be on vacation in Greece on the day (if it ever comes) when Greece leaves the euro, don’t immediately invest all your assets in the New Drachma. Just go back to the beach and remember that Greek hospitality is among the best in Europe. Greek smiles don’t easily fade. So all the more reason why one of Europe’s liveliest and most enriching countries should not be shunned just because Greece is having a tough time.

The islands may well be a better bet for this summer than overheated Athens. Fortunately, a new edition of Frewin Poffley’s book Greek Island Hopping has just been published. This excellent guide will help you on your way.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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9 thoughts on “To Visit or Stay Away: The Greece Question”

  1. #Slow Dave
    #hidden europe

    So you do not see the connection between the fall in tourists, and the greek mentality? Then you need to wake up.

    You might find it offensive, but I speak the truth. Yes, it is a complicated situation. But as long as up to 70% of businesses in the tourist areas (Santorini, Naxos, ect.) commits tax evasion, then I can’t see why we should support them.

    If and when Greece has started to act responsible, then I will come back as a tourist. The greeks aren’t poor, Greece is poor.

    Reply
  2. The mentality of some Danes is offensive to some of us, Heinrik, but we do not condemn the entire Danish nation for the xenophobic views of just a few. Yet you dismiss the entirety of Greece and all her citizens. Read again what you said, Heinrik, and think again.

    And nice to see a Eurocheapo theme that raises such issues. I am an Irishman working in Germany (for a tourist organisation). Love this site. Some great stuff.

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  3. This has very little to do with riots, burning of german flag sect. This has to do with the Greek mentality of demanding money, and not being willing to do an effort or pay taxes. But instead let countries like Germany pay. Why should germans support that country any more? Why should they spend money in a country that already has taken so much of their money, and blame them for all wrong whilst calling them nazis?

    As a Dane I myself chose Spain for my vacation last year, although we had planned to go to Greece. But I can’t support a country with that mentallity.

    For me to return as a tourist Greece must show they are willing to stop corruption, pay taxes and act responsible.

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  4. Nick and Susanne

    Thank you for your comments. I agree on having got a little carried away on the tourism debate. I wrote the comment after having seen a chilling burning of the German flag in Greece and Merkel being portrait in Nazi uniform. Not living in Germany I might not see the “growing German antipathy to all things Greek” but I do see the “Greek antipathy to all things German” being played out in the news which I find highly unnerving but strangely acceptable to the international community. I don’t blame any German for staying away and would be surprised if this was out of a sentiment of punishment rather than fear.

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  5. .

    Mary (above)

    We were, it must be said, a shade surprised by the intemperate tone of your comments on our short piece on Greece for EuroCheapo. You suggest that the piece was “obviously written by a Greek”. How far from the truth. The piece was co-written by two of us: one a born-and-bred Berliner and the other a Berliner by choice. But we play no nationalist cards, being neither for Greece or Germany in the debate. Instead we merely tried to shed a little light on a topical issue. We are not sure that the debate is enhanced by your rather venomous intervention, but we note your comments with interest.

    As to profligate expenditure on airports and adventurously ambitious but half-completed projects, Berlin knocks spots off Athens in both stakes.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Mary.
    Nicky and Susanne

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  6. Interesting anti-German article. How unbalanced. Obviously written by a Greek. No blame at the Greeks for wasting billions on new unnecessary airport, doubling the size their government with borrowed money, ridiculously low pension age and a general tax avoidance. No mention that Germany is also in debt and has to borrow the money to fund all this with their economy also being precarious and Germans generally worried about the economy. There is one point I agree with and that is that Germany is to blame for agreeing to accept Greece and a few other countries who were not fit to borrow money as their fiscal policies meant they could never pay back their debt. My father-in-law foresaw the current crisis from the outset. Very wise man.
    If I was a German national, I too would not go near the place. My husband who is British has been refused taxi rides from Athens airport and spat in the face regularly (in the 1990s) for being British and not coming to Greek’s aid in the second world war. Not a very tolerant, hospitable or friendly characteristic.
    I think the Greeks should be happy that Germans stay away, since they hate them so much. I had to laugh out loud when a Greek tourist representative said that the Greeks don’t hate the Germans only the German government.

    Oh and I will never get over the fact that Greeks don’t have to pay taxes on their property if it does not have a roof. Look at the hideous architecture and skyline of Athens with thousands of houses without roofs. It says all about the Greek attitude to helping their own country on their feet. Maybe they should burn their own flag for once.

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  7. I’ll not be climbing on the next flight to Greece, but I can buy the point. Don’t kick Greece when it’s down. And Germany’s attitude to Greece has been very divisive, making many non-Germans in Europe draw back a little from Merkel’s posturing. But she plays methinks more for the home crowd, stirring up a few anti-Greek emotions that could feed well into her wish to secure a further term in office.

    Reply

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