A few weeks before the Greek islands opened to tourists again, photographer Nikos Pilos and I were on Mykonos for a project called “Present,” organized by the independent media organization iMEdD, which aims to record in the Covid-19 era. The lonely trip from the all but deserted Athens International Airport ended on what looked like an island sealed tightly against the world.
The main town, Hora, which at that time of year would usually be buzzing with locals whitewashing streets and houses as the first visitors started to arrive, felt like January. For three days we had to make do with coffee from two takeaway cafes and food from two takeaway restaurants on the ring road – the only places on the island that were open.
Many of the Mykonians I spoke to liked the quiet. They were enjoying their world-famous beaches as they were 40 years ago: without umbrellas, loungers and crowds. It was the first time in decades that they’d had the island to themselves at that time of year. Psarou was just another pretty sandy beach, while at Paranga the Scorpios beach bar had been taken over by wild hares and peacocks. There was a lot of talk, of course, about who would open, who would stay shut, who would survive, who would struggle. It’s hard to come to any conclusions or decisions in such a fluid landscape.
At the mayor’s office, the mood was calm. “Mykonos has lost 68 days of the tourism season and counting, but if health protocols, flight schedules and hotel rules are not clarified, no hotelier can sit down to do the math and see whether it’s worth opening or not,” says Mayor Konstantinos Koukas.
The blow to Mykonos – according to locals’ estimates – is expected to come to a drop of around 70% of incoming tourism. This represents a significant economic loss for businesses and the local authority, but also for the entire Greek economy, which is losing revenues and jobs.
On our way back, we stopped by the winery of a Mykonian friend. It would normally have been hard to find him – and with time to chat – at that time of year. But we had all the time in the world. Our conversation was about the beach and where we would go swimming the following day. Tourism may have started late this year, but perhaps the delay was a small blessing for the ever-hardworking Mykonians before they had to kick into high gear again.