Rioters rampaging through the streets of Athens, combined with tales of corruption and economic collapse, have emptied Greece’s beaches and tavernas just as the crucial summer tourist season begins. More than 27,000 hotel bookings were cancelled in Athens in the two weeks after demonstrations turned deadly in early May. And sales of holiday packages to Germans and Britons, who account for a third of the Mediterranean nation’s tourist market, have plunged by at least 25 per cent.
The threats to Greece’s largest economic sector keep mounting as the protests and strikes continue against severe austerity measures, required as part of an international bailout of the country. One cruise firm abandoned Greece after unions warned they’d stop liners from loading and unloading passengers as a way to protest new rules opening up the shipping industry. Now passengers of the Zenith will spend their money in the history-steeped island nation of Malta. Surveying his half-empty resort on Crete, a worried Andreas Metaxas told Der Spiegel: “Cancellations sound like an eternal alarm signal, one that says, ‘Do not visit Greece under any circumstances.’ ” The industry wants an advertising campaign to fill the empty tourist spots. However, the minister in charge just quit after revelations her husband had neglected to pay millions in taxes. If that weren’t enough, the government still hasn’t paid for past campaigns.