Investors who put their money into Athens hotels surely deserve the title of hero. That is not to say that the Greek capital doesn’t have a lot of potential – quite the opposite – but those who have worked hard and continue to do so in order to revive and modernize the city’s hotel infrastructure must be feeling very lonely.
This thought passes through my mind every time I walk past one of the latest arrivals. In Omonia Square I raise my eyes in awe at the Athens Tiare Hotel, at the top of Pireos Street. At Karaiskaki Square, I bow to the Wyndham Grand, and in Syntagma, which is a much better area than the other two, I give a nod of support and understanding to the Electra Metropolis on Mitropoleos Street. These are the heroes of an uneven battle, from which they will come out as winners, though.
However, there remains the huge issue of the different forces at play, social acceptance, institutional adequacy and economic counterincentives. If you take a walk around the areas in which the three hotels are located, this becomes clear. Let’s say you start your walk at Thiseio train station, head up Adrianou Street, past the Ancient Agora, to Monastiraki, then onto Pandrosou Street and the square in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, up to Syntagma, down Stadiou Street to Omonia, and from there along Aghiou Constantinou Street to Karaiskaki Square. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination or much experience to realize that this walk, right in the center of downtown Athens, reveals a city that is filthy and dejected.
Unfortunately, economic misery has wrapped itself around the city like a second skin and society appears frozen, unable to fight this phenomenon. The government has succeeded in projecting the entirety of our economic, social and morale decline on the capital.
For example, new souvlaki joints have popped up on Ermou Street near Syntagma and on Korai Square right across the street from the Hansen brothers’ Neoclassical Trilogy. People have become addicted to such an image of the city, as it has grown almost natural to believe that there should be no sense of hierarchy, that Athens does not deserve even the small islets that do remain culturally pristine. The culture of fast, greasy food is a fact and the city has become a theme park for decline. This is not evident absolutely everywhere, of course, because there are a few exceptions, but every day Athens shows that it is steadily slipping into the underdeveloped city category. Let’s not mince our words: The hero-investors resisting the trend deserve at least some public recognition.