ECONOMY

Visitors opting to give Athens a miss

Perpetual protests in downtown Athens and the closure of main squares and streets have had a negative impact not just on the day-to-day lives of city dwellers, but also on tourism, as visitors not only often find themselves in the middle of the storm, but also discover that archaeological sites or other destinations they intended to visit are closed. When traveling with children, the problems are even greater.

Greece has always promoted itself as an ideal family destination. A recent article on the website of the Greek National Tourism Organization — titled ?Top 6 family destinations: Just for you, kids!? — promises ?a hearty, warm welcome… in a country where everyone, young and old, is a kid, and family is still a special strong bond.?

While the above may sound trite, to say the least, the GNTO has increasingly turned its focus toward promoting Greece as a safe and family-friendly destination. Unfortunately, no amount of promotion can right the many problems that people with children face once they hit the streets of the capital.

Travel writer Matt Barrett, of the popular websites GreeceTravel.com and AthensGuide.com, writes in his article ?Strollering Through Athens?: ?A friend with a baby asked me if Athens was stroller-friendly… It didn?t take long for me to answer that saying Athens was not stroller-friendly would be giving a false impression, as if Athens is merely unconscious or unaware that people have children and a popular way to transport them is by stroller. Because to anyone who has tried to get around the city pushing a small child it would seem that Athens is not indifferent or unaware, but is actually in a state of war with them.?

Barrett, who is always ready to take on a challenge, attempted to walk from Plaka to the central Athenian neighborhood of Kypseli and back pushing a stroller and with his wife in tow. The chronicle of this adventure may be written with the best of good humor, but the details will send a chill down any parent?s spine, even that of Greeks who appear to have grown immune to the sorry state of the capital?s sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, and to the general public?s disregard for strollers.

Greece is also promoted by the GNTO as a safe destination, posting videos on YouTube showing families on vacation in Athens. However, online forums like TripAdvisor.com reflect the level of worry parents have about bringing their children to a city that is no stranger to sudden riots, with hundreds of posts asking whether it is safe to visit the Greek capital. As frightening as this sounds, however, the fact is that no one can really answer with any degree of certainty that there won?t be problems in central Athens on any given day.