OPINION

Bad hosts

The tourism industry remains one of Greece’s strongest cards. According to the National Statistics Service, some 15.7 million tourists visited Greece last year and the figure this year is expected to be over 16 million (with obvious economic benefits). The private sector has sought to capitalize on the soaring numbers by modernizing existing accommodation or creating new infrastructure. The state sector is conspicuously absent from all this. It has failed to control those who give Greece a bad name (including many restaurant owners and taxi drivers). Tourists often complain about overcharging at nightclubs and by taxi drivers. (Tourists looking for a taxi at US airports inform a police officer of their destination and are told the exact fare.) Tax evasion is the rule, especially on the Aegean islands. Moreover, the state has failed to advance the requisite infrastructure projects to meet increased summer demand. The result is deficient airports and sea ports where tourists have to wait under the scorching sun as their ship queues for space in the harbor. Tourism is hostage to the poor infrastructure, the legacy left by previous governments which the current administration has failed to redress. Last weekend, a friend of mine visited the island of Santorini, that famous tourism landmark. His ship departed one hour late. It was not a huge delay but the rest of the journey is highly revealing as to what foreign tourists must put up with. The next stop was the port of Ios. As soon as the ferry approached the island, it had to wait for an hour in the open sea until the dilapidated Romilda had left the island. My friend reached Piraeus after a delay of at least three hours, with the ship’s crew on the verge of a mental breakdown. As members of the crew admitted, such delays are common in the summer period.