The historic Athens district of Plaka was almost deserted on a recent visit. Many shops were still closed and my joy at seeing a tourist couple in their mid-20s strolling around holding hands was so great I was tempted to welcome them and ask how they were enjoying themselves. Almost…
Athens is just weird without tourists. The Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, Monastiraki, Thiseio… When will they bring Athens back to life? When will we hear the exotic notes of Chinese, Italian, French and Russian in our streets again? When will the sound of the bouzouki resound around Plaka again? Where are the Americans to devour Greek gyros and souvlakia with such relish?
At a recent press conference given by Kyriakos Mitsotakis from the holiday island of Santorini to herald the opening of the tourism season in Greece, one foreign journalist commented that he was having trouble focusing on what the premier was saying because of everything “going on” behind him. What was going on in the background? Santorini’s world-famous sunset view, the perfect setting for inviting tourists back to the country.
We all know that this summer is going to be different, governed by different rules and a different pace. But Greece is not just about the summer, sun and sea. It is so much more than that. It has monasteries and mountains, cultural and culinary treasures, it has wineries and so many more great and small things that shape us. These are the pieces of the mosaic that need to be showcased to make Greece a year-round destination.
Investment in a product – a destination in this case – needs a multifaceted approach. It needs to have safety nets to offset losses from unexpected setbacks. The situation with arrivals remains unclear so far, but everyone knows that even if the islands get some business this summer – with tourists opting for direct flights – the season will probably be a write-off for Athens.
But the Greek capital is beautiful and fascinating in every season of the year – and this is the message that needs to be broadcast abroad – now more than ever.