What the Greek crisis means for tourists

Since violent demonstrations in Athens made headlines last year in most of the foreign press, potential visitors to Crete are often asking if it is safe to come to Crete at the moment with all the troubles in Greece.

Here are a few answers:

  • Crete remains one the safest places in Europe.
  • Most demonstrations in Crete have been quite small and generally peaceful. If they happen they will take place in front of town halls, tax offices and such. These are generally not the sort of places frequented by tourists.
  • People are having a hard time financially and are painfully aware that tourism is the largest source of income that Greece currently has (cynics will say “the only”) and they don’t want to damage that source of income.
  • Cretan’s famed sense of hospitality is still very much in existence.

A few more aspects to consider:
Tourism has suffered a slight but steady decline in the past 8 years or so and that has changed the local attitude a little bit. Going back a decade or so, Greeks had had 20 years of constant growth in tourism and that constant growth got to be taken for granted. People became a little arrogant about offering good service at a decent price.
The gradual decline finally made them realize that they could not take tourists for granted and that they had to offer value for money (I am not saying ‘cheap’, ‘value for money’ is something different) and maybe more specifically service quality. At least people who are good at their business have understood this and they are grateful for business, want people to come back and are making efforts to please them.
As the (financial) situation of Greece becomes more critical I think that even more effort will be made to get visitors and to satisfy them. There will be more of an appreciation that you are visiting this country.
This will not translate into a cheap tourist destination (we are in the Euro zone and just cannot compete on price with some countries outside the Euro) but I am seeing prices being held to last year’s level, even the year before. I see VAT increases being absorbed by, for example the restaurants, and not passed on to the customers.

So on that aspect, it is a good time to visit Crete and the rest of Greece. And you will be supporting an economy that really needs every help it can get at the moment.

One caveat: there have been more strikes than usual in 2011 and whilst these do not generally affect tourists there have been air traffic controller strikes and taxi drivers strikes that have cause major inconvenience to visitors. But again, these have been blown out of proportion by the foreign media and Greece bashers. If I remember correctly there were actually two days of air traffic strikes in the whole of 2011 (several other dates that had been announced were cancelled) so the likelihood of it happening on the day you fly is slim. Call it bad luck, this can happen anywhere (for example Frankfurt airport which is on strike at the moment).

15 Responses to What the Greek crisis means for tourists

  1. DavidA says:

    Many thanks for this very useful piece. I read avidly everything about the horrors of the Greek edonomy and I was genuinely beginning to wonder whether it would be foolish to go to Crete this year. On the strength of this note I have just booked our flights for May.

  2. Jean says:

    I think that the riots in Britain last year were much worse than what happened anywhere in Greece in the last years. On the other hand, don’t go and pitch your tent on Syntagma Square.

  3. marc E says:

    I come to Crete in May for the 8th time. I love Crete and its people, I won’t get fooled by these Greece critics !
    Hospitality has been allways there. Allways good value in all aspects. Thank you people of Crete.

  4. Tapani says:

    Jean, I`d like to thank You for your informative blog and photos! I´m waiting for next time coming to Crete in May or June – the 19th time.

  5. Richard says:

    There were two interesting articles in the Travel section of the Sunday TImes on 18/3.
    The first, headlined “A thousand Greek hotels put up for sale” says that as many as 1,000 hotels are expected to close or be sold in the next few weeks as owners fight for survival in the face of reduced bookings. According to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels about 10% of the country’s hotel owners say they intend to sell up after official figures predicted tourism revenue for 2012 will be 5% down on last year. “Recent anti-German protests – in which German and Nazi flags were burnt in the streets of Athens – have been blamed for a 20%-30% fall in bookings from German nationals.” The drop in British and Irish tourists is expected to be smaller at about 10%. Luxury hotels in the centre of Athens are understandably worst hit. However the islands are also badly hit as small family hotels that cater to Greek nationals lose bookings from those who cannot afford a holiday this year. Apparantly the Ktimatoemporiki property agency has “75 hotels on its books” in Crete.

    The second article – also by Chris Haslam – says that geophysicists on Santorini have recorded land movements of 5-9cm “prompting fears that a volcanoc eruption is imminent”. He goes on to say that a “government-appointed committeee meets in Santorini on 27/3 to assess the risk. If you believe, as I do, that the eruption of Thera destroyed the Minoan civilisation of Crete through a combination of tsunami and volcanic ash, the hoteliers of Crete have now got something else to worry about!

    • Jean says:

      Seems you have to pay to read the article so I’ll pass but I am wondering how many hotels are for sale in Greece at any one time (under normal circumstances). Probably quite a few. So rather than give us a number they could have mentioned if there are more hotels waiting to be sold and bought than usual. The answer is probably yes but could be also due to the fact that nobody buys or sells anything in these crisis times: the property market is almost at a standstill.
      As for the drop in tourism…things have been going up and down for the past 12 years or so but the boom years have been over for quite a while now (since the Euro or a little before?) and depend on many factors. Of course an eruption next door could be one of those.
      Good thing we both live on hill, isn’t it Richard?

  6. Nikos says:

    Greece bashers? Since when is telling the truth about what’s happening here called ‘bashing’? It is a country in crisis, it is in debt, businesses are closing at record rate, there is rioting. Just because you can spend the day taking photos doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there losing jobs, having a hard time and contemplating suicide.

    How can you say the British riots were worse than the Greek ones when you weren’t in London or Athens for either?

    • Jean says:

      Note that my post refers essentially to Crete, not Athens.
      FYI, I also earn a living here so my time is not spent taking photos.

  7. Dave LaPorte says:

    OK. I am going to Crete

  8. PeterS says:

    Well, isn’t it time to renew this information? We have 2015 now, and Greece is on the verge of a grexit this summer. What would that mean for tourists?

    • Jean says:

      A ‘Grexit’ probably will not change anything for tourists except eventually lower prices and I don’t think that much of what is written in the article is not applicable to 2015. But you’re correct that as this article sits at the top of the right hand menu I ought to alter it.

      • PeterS says:

        Good idea.

        Wouldn’t it be advisable to bring a lot of cash as the ATM’s probably would go dry without Euro’s from the ECB, and it’s not sure that credit cards still work?

        There for sure also could be a lot of turmoil, so it should be a good idea to avoid masses of people. In Argentina in 2001 there was a lot of civil unrest and riots.

        If one travels by plane it might be possible that the return flight gets delayed for days.

        • Jean says:

          Civil unrest and riots in Crete? I doubt it.

          As for lots of cash. Maybe not lots of cash but enough to not have to rely on credit cards because Greece would most probably have to introduce capital controls and that probably means that credit cards (even foreign ones) may not work for a few days until the transition is made.

          Planes delayed? I don’t see what the reason could be for that. Am I missing something?

  9. PeterS says:

    I hope of course that a grexit will not happen and that a reasonable compromise can be found between the greek government and the Brussels institutions, but the risk for a great is by now at least 50 %. (and maybe has been Syria’s hidden agenda from the start). I any case a Grexit will not be a walk in the park, with a little turmoil for some day, and then back to business as usual.

    As Paul Krugman wrote today in NYT: “exiting the euro would be extremely costly and disruptive in Greece …” Disruptive could of course mean different things, yet civil unrest and riots are common aspects, particularly in countries with violent leftist and rightist gangs (like Greece). Let us hope that this would only happen in the larger urban areas, and not on Crete.

    If you travel to Crete by charter this summer, and in particular charter of the all-inclusive kind, you certainly don’t have to be afraid as long as you stay in your gated compound. When you travel individualistically, however, as I prefer you need a lot of cash when the ATM’s are out of money, due to the fact that you cannot pay for many things by credit card. I remember that quite a few tourists on Crete in 2012 were carrying thousands of EUROs with them, as the situation was a little unpredictable also back then after the two elections.

    Planes delayed? That is something I read on the blogs discussing the Greek crisis. Maybe not, but don’t say that is has not happened before due to strikes etc.

    As I said I hope nothing of this will happen, but there is a risk, and a tourist planning to visit Crete this summer should try to stay updated about the situation

  10. Laurence says:

    Some good common sense regarding the Economic “crisis” in Greece…will definitely still be travelling to Crete this summer, I will have a great holiday & also support the economy…sadly my so called government is not reflecting the people of Ireland support for Greece. We as a European country have more in common with Greece than the likes of Germany but politics are full of politicians and the reality [people] of hardship is ignored due to the squabbling power “wanna bees” …sorry for this political comment but as we are aware; truth & politics don’t go together…sadly. Thanks for honest opinion.

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