Greece: A Week in the Economic Crisis from One Tourist’s Point of View

Our QC assistant, Shelby Bodily writes –

Although Greece is not the number one destination for summer holiday makers this year, some tourists have decided to brave the situation and carry on with their trips, despite the uncertainty and vague warnings presented in the news.

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Recently returned from a recent trip to Corfu, there has been some interest about how the economic crisis affected the holiday. From my experience, although very limited, it was possible to overlook the crisis as a tourist, but there were some obvious signs of the economic struggles.

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Upon arriving in Corfu, holiday makers are greeted with the task of finding a taxi to get to their hotels. The fastest way (normally) to do this is by taxi, however, the taxi rank may be empty and newly arrived tourists can be left to queue outside for hours waiting for a taxi: the first sign that the crisis hasn’t missed the island all together. Finally getting a taxi, tourists must come to terms with the fact that the drivers will no longer use the meter but work with flat rates. Once on the way, the drive around the island is quite beautiful, but the picturesque landscape has not managed to fully escape the effects of economic trouble, as it is dotted with large, highly stacked piles of rubbish (although, this has been a long standing visual representation of economic trouble in Greece).

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After spending some time on the island, it is apparent that most of the businesses refuse to accept cards of any kind and owners explained that in order to continue buying/selling their goods they had to follow what their suppliers were doing: only accept cash. The news had warned of this and everyone seemed to be prepared for a ‘cash only’ situation. Although, some of the bigger chain stores did explain that even though it is technically illegal to refuse cards, it has become a common practice.

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One local hotel owner shared that the locals were only allowed to take out a minimal amount of money from their own accounts per week, an amount far too low to keep the businesses running. He said that his hotel was struggling keep up with some everyday tasks (ie. providing clean sheets) since they had to cut down on some services in order to save money. This particular owner was adamant that the current government is not considering what is best for the Greek people and that the government must change in order to fix the current situation, a feeling that seemed to be echoed by many of the locals. Many also expressed their anger with the press, who has been painting a rather grim picture of the situation in Greece. This may be the reason why Corfu has experienced an uncharacteristically slow season this year. Some shop/hotel owners wanted potential visitors to know that the situation on the island is safe, mostly normal and completely worth the trip. They also explained that this isn’t the time to scare off tourists, but to encourage more tourism to boost the economy (which may prove difficult given the recent 10% tax increase).

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Throughout the week it was difficult to ignore the feeling that something was not quite right. From the deserted shopping areas between larger towns, the underlying frustrations of the people and the obvious stress of lack of money, it was clear that, although the island didn’t seem to be as effected as the main land, it could not escape the pressures of the economic crisis that Greece is dealing with. As time goes on and the situation continues to change, it will be interesting to see how Greece recovers.

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