OPINION

The example of cruise tourism

When will our politicians finally wake up? When will they realize that we are in the 21st century, that the country is sinking and that they can no longer behave as though it were the 1980s?

Take cruise tourism for example.

Greece is a premiere destination in the region and a number of major operating companies would like to use Greek ports as their main base for the Mediterranean. According to their estimates, the benefits for Greece would be great indeed, both in terms of money but also in terms of the boost it would provide to tourism. Experience, after all, has taught us that tourists who go on cruises are always ?good customers.?

But these major companies are setting certain terms over what they will and will not put up with. They can?t, for example, understand why the process of signing cooperation agreements with companies that want a base in Greece is so complicated (because it doesn?t exist anywhere else in the world). No company wants to operate within the framework of such complex procedures and they certainly don?t want to be obligated to hire a certain number of local deck hands or sailors.

The government, however, has shied away from reforms to this crucial sector and, instead of lifting cabotage entirely, it has chosen to adopt a series of half-measures that, naturally, bring about only partial results. Was it scared off by the Communist Party-affiliated PAME labor group that has organized a number of strikes and blockades of ports, or is it frightened of unions who represent a significant chunk of its voter base in general? It should think about how many jobs the liberalization of ports could generate.

Big cruise liner companies also demand that ports stay open, as they do everywhere else, and are not blockaded by protesting workers. The cost to such companies when a port is closed by unions, whether legally or illegally, is significant, not just because of the compensation they have to fork out to customers, but also because of the damage these actions do to the country?s reputation as a destination.

There is nothing difficult to understand about this and other similar problems. At some point, the middle class of this country will have to force its politicians to ignore the cost of defying the unions and instead let the country move ahead.