Call for later museums

Greece’s tour guides are pressing authorities to extend the opening hours of museums and archaeological sites, arguing that the 3 p.m. closing time enforced at most sites prevents them from doing their jobs properly and deprives many tourists of the chance to see the country’s treasures. «Why should a visitor pay for a ticket to see just half a museum, or be rushed out of a site because it is closing, when he has traveled thousands of kilometers to come to Greece?» the Panhellenic Federation of Tour Guides said in a letter to the ministries of Culture and Development yesterday. Passengers of cruise ships reaching mainland Greece or the islands in the afternoon will not be able to see any of the sites, they added. The guides also objected to the fact that many of the country’s most significant sites and museums remain closed much of the time due to staff shortages. Sections of the National Archaeological Museum, Delphi, the ancient site of Mycenae, the Palace of Knossos on Crete, Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum and many other major sites «are closed due to a lack of security personnel,» the union remarked. The guides noted that the timetable should not only be extended during the peak summer season, remarking that the season for «cultural tourism» and school tours has already started. The union questioned the logic behind most sites opening at 8 a.m. – when the majority of tourists do not visit – and stressed that it would be far better if the sites were to open a bit later and stay open in the afternoons. Such a timetable would also facilitate travel agents who are currently forced to «restrict the time spent by visitors at each site so that they can see as much as possible before 3 p.m.» There had been no response to the main appeal made in the union’s letter by late yesterday. However a statement issued from the office of Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said that an agreement had been signed with the Economy Ministry for the recruitment of additional staff at sites but that the final rubber stamp by the Interior Ministry was pending.