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).

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