News Eyewitness: tourism in Greece and why now is the time to go

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Eyewitness: tourism in Greece and why now is the time to go

Expat Becki Enright shares her experiences and explains why now is the best time for holidaymakers to go Greek.

With all of the country’s current economic woes, you’d be forgiven for thinking now is the time to turn your back on a holiday to Greece. But, as our reporter on the ground Becki explains, there’s much still to admire, from the sunny weather to the resilient Greek spirit, enough to encourage tourists to stick by their travel plans.

Here’s what she says:

Standing within a crowded bar in central Athens on a Saturday evening, you wouldn’t believe there was a crisis. "It’s the summer and we have to go out! Greeks cannot stay inside," one local woman told me, before exchanging hilariously captioned images of Greek politicians and EU figureheads. Conversation quickly turns to a satirical discussion about politics and how far ‘normal’ life can continue.

Tourists visiting the Acropolis ©Becki Enright

What I hear most from Greek people is that they remain hopeful for resolution as their lives are dissected on the world stage. If there’s one thing the Greeks have in droves, it’s resilience.

The news has fast become dominated by Greece and its future within the Eurozone; a frenzy of conflicting opinions, political fervency, economic debate and plenty of speculation and scaremongering. A post-conflict nation, having survived war, occupation and civil unrest, Greece has fallen and rebuilt itself many times over. Now, after five years of harsh austerity measures, the past weeks have seen proposals, counter-proposals and a referendum, leading to looming deadlines this week that will decide the country’s fate.

"By staying away from Greece you do more harm than good."

Disturbingly, while its political and social systems face restructuring, Greece’s main lifeline to stability and recovery – tourism – has been hit by the perpetuation of a false representation which paints the country as violent, unsafe and chaotic for the thousands of visitors set to arrive for the high season.

As an expat on the ground in Athens, I see it differently; there are four central pillars of life in Greece that remain unchanged – the incredible climate, scenes of Aegean blue, infamous cuisine and the warmth of the people.

Restaurant outside in Greece ©Becki Enright

What many think is now the worst time to go is actually the best. Not only are holiday package prices to island getaways being heavily discounted (meaning you get more for your money) but you will be spending that money, more so if travelling independently, in a country whose people need it most.

Greece is a nation united not only in their passion for their country’s future, but in their desire to continue to deliver the world-class hospitality they’re known for.

By staying away from Greece you do more harm than good; there’s no need to cancel your holiday or be put off going. Word of mouth and the limitless sphere of social media are easy and effective tools used to sway our opinions, when in fact tourism itself shows us the reality. In this case, Greece is still open for business and the local people will make sure of that.

Bring a supply of euros that will last throughout your entire holiday and pre-plan how to carry more cash (any change of currency, should it come to that, although this would take a while to implement). Accept that not all cash machines will be working and the ones that do will not limit you to the 60 euros – this is only applicable to locals with a Greek bank account – international bank accounts are not subject to the same limitations.

"…tavernas continue to serve meze feasts and ferries are still departing to the paradise islands. There’s no shortage of food, fuel and fun."

Some establishments, including hotels and restaurants, are taking card payments but rather than see this as a hindrance understand that hard cash is paying suppliers and the wages of the people making your holiday the best it can be. The people are living under a capitol control system thrust upon them with little warning. Your money allows business to continue.

Images have emerged of police guarding cash machines, as if the entire city is on lock down, supermarkets with empty shelves, suggesting there’s a nationwide food shortage, and peaceful protests depicted as hard line demonstrations. These images make for a good story, except the real picture is of life continuing and tourism thriving. Sensationalism has become more interesting than supporting a European neighbor. I stood within the crowds during the peaceful ‘Nai’ (yes) protests and and watched the jubilant crowds dancing when the ‘Oxi’ (no) vote majority came in. It was peaceful and empowered, not violent. The Acropolis hums with the sounds of marveled tourists, coffee shops brim with locals sipping on their _freddo _cappuccino for hours, tavernas continue to serve meze feasts and ferries are still departing to the paradise islands. There’s no shortage of food, fuel and fun.

Al fresco cafe in Greece ©Becki Enright

While the current situation cannot be ignored, it should be better understood – being here yourself is the best way. Talk to the people and you will soon understand the difficulties they face and the support they need. They’ll tell you times are tough, that business is slow, products are having to be discounted in order to attract business, and that they are worried for the future. Yet, their doors remain wide open and they’ll still greet you with a smile and a warm welcome, despite their personal struggles.

You may be divided, but tourism can unite us in dark times and we must fight for what we think is right. I know I won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Thanks to Becki for giving us her thoughts on the situation in Greece – read more about her travels at Borders of Adventure

Get all the latest news on the Greek economic crisis on our advice page, along with useful tips if you’re travelling there over the coming months.

Find out more about holidaying in Greece:

8 things to see and do in Athens

From ancient sites to contemporary cuisine, here’s our guide to Athens’ best bits.

A travel guide to 20 gorgeous Greek islands

Get to know your Ios from your Naxos, or spot the difference between Santorini and Skiathos.

Top 10 things to see and do in Thessaloniki

Venerable in age, young at heart, Greece’s second city will appeal to culture buffs and bar crawlers alike.

10 must-sees in Mykonos

Good food, great party spots and breath-taking views help make Mykonos a sweet holiday spot in 2015.

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