Ever since the full extent of Greek financial deception was finally revealed three years ago, the Greek economy has developed a reputation as something of a basket case. Excessive regulations and overlapping bureaucracies have created a climate in which it is nearly impossible to do business. Stories like this one, about a Greek businessman who spent 10 months of frantic obtaining authorization for his online olive oil business, and this one, about a cafe-bookstore owner in Athens who was neither allowed to give away coffee nor to sell books, are all too common in Greece. With most businesses floundering, however, one industry has remained strong through the crisis, and has quickly become the pillar of the Greek economy—tourism.
Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, the tourism industry may be collapsing too. Following reports of riots in Athens and uncertainty about the political situation in the country, many tourists have opted to stay away from the picturesque Greek shoreline and impressive ancient ruins this year. Britain and Canada have both advised citizens to stay away from demonstrations in Greece, and while most of these uprisings are concentrated in Athens, many travelers have decided to postpone Greece excursions until the situation quiets down. Other tourists have expressed concerns that persistent strikes will affect services like trash collection and transportation, further reducing the appeal of a relaxing Greek vacation. Hotel bookings for the summer have dropped by about 15 percent this year, and other tourism-related businesses have seen sales fall by as much as 60 percent.
Needless to say, this is terrible news for Greece. Tourism currently accounts for about one sixth of the Greek economy, and as austerity kicks in fully, this number may climb (especially if prices continue to fall, making Greece an even better bargain for foreigners). The Greeks can’t afford to scare tourists away during a time of crisis, but, paradoxically, the results of this crisis are accomplishing exactly that. It’s going to be a long, hot summer in Greece.