The 2012 tourist season got off to a really bad start because of all the bad press Greece was getting in the foreign press last winter and spring. Interestingly this stream of bad press was followed by a flurry of positive articles in the early summer. These were telling us that despite all the images of protesters and street fighting in the centre of Athens, Greece (and especially its islands) were still really good places to enjoy a holiday. I can’t say if these articles had a direct effect on holiday makers but the fact is that, after a very poor spring, things got back to normal in summer (at least in western Crete) and most people (in the tourism sector) I talked to had a reasonably good summer and an excellent autumn season. So all in all, despite the crisis and the bad start in spring, many people with businesses in tourism are quite satisfied and breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Unfortunately I can see another dark cloud on the horizon: in the past couple of weeks several newspaper and magazine articles (as well as a BBC Newsnight report) have reported the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece (see links to some of these articles below). The main agenda of these thugs at the moment is to get rid of illegal immigrants but it seems that many members are not quite capable of making the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants (according to Ilias Panagiotaros who is a member of the Greek parliament, one of 18 MPs elected for Golden Dawn, “There are no legal migrants in Greece, not even one.”).
From hating immigrants to hating all foreigners there is only a very fine line (especially if you happen to be the wrong skin colour) and if this continues we will soon have the press and governments warning against travel to Greece. Tourists are, after all, foreigners and will soon be at risk too if Golden Dawn is allowed to carry on doing what they are doing (possibly in collusion with part of the police force).
It will take only ONE incident to blow up in everybody’s face and wreck another tourist season. And this is the last thing that Greece needs at the moment.
In the mean time the U.S. State Department has already sent out a warning to dark-skinned American visitors that they must be careful of their safety when they leave their hotels. That warning is sure to bring a lot of American visitors to Greece.
and here are some press links:
Alarm at Greek police ‘collusion’ with far-right Golden Dawn
A Fascist party in full cry. Black-shirts smashing migrants’ homes. Swastikas on the streets. No, not Germany in the Thirties: Greece 2012
The Terrifying Rise of Greece’s Nazi Party
The dark night of Golden Dawn
Rechtsextremismus in Griechenland nimmt zu
Demonstranten werfen Polizei Folter vor
GRECE. La police accusée de “tortures”