Over the last few weeks it’s been almost impossible to open a newspaper, watch TV, or read anything online without hearing some mention of Greece. And it’s mostly been negative. Greece’s involvement in the Eurozone crisis and relationship with the EU has been the source of lots of negative press reporting and all sorts of dubious claims as to what is actually happening here. Some media outlets have even gone as far as to suggest that you should avoid going to Greece for your holidays this summer. This is simply not true, Greece is the perfect destination for your summer holidays this year, perhaps more than ever, and we’d like to set the record straight on a few things. So read on…
Greece was adversely affected by the global financial disaster triggered by the sub-prime mortgage crisis which began in 2008. Greece’s debt crisis began in 2010 after years of overspending and the accumulation of debts by successive governments, which Greece found itself unable to pay off when the creditors called in their debts. Greece joining the European single currency (Euro) in 2001 allowed it to apply for loans at much more favourable rates than its GDP (national income) supported, but when the lenders requested their loans back after the financial crisis panic, Greece found itself unable to afford to pay them back, particularly as the financial crisis had caused a global recession, resulting in job losses (and so lower tax revenues) and in turn rising welfare costs.
Greece’s debt was so great that credit ratings agencies moved Greek government debt to ‘junk’ status, preventing Greece from borrowing any more money in order to pay off the debts it held already. Greece was forced to ask for money from ‘The Troika’, a group comprising of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the ECB (European Central Bank) and the EC (EU Commission).
Greece was given bailout loans, but on the condition that it made certain sacrifices in order to pay back the money it was borrowing from the Troika. These sacrifices would come in the form of public sector cuts and massively increased taxes. Greece’s membership of the EU proved to be a double edged sword – it had received more favourable loans by being an EU member, as well as EU funding for development, and a bailout, but, without control of its own currency, Greece was unable to regrow its economy by devaluing its currency or cutting interest rates.
After 5 years of ‘austerity measures’ designed to help pay back Greece’s debt, Greece’s economy and people were really suffering, although its tourist industry remained vibrant and healthy. In January 2015 the left-wing Syriza party were swept to power in the Greek government elections, with new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promising to put an end to austerity without jeopardising Greece’s membership of the EU.
Tsipras refused to meet the Troika’s conditions attached to a third bailout which Greece needed in order to pay off a debt repayment due to the IMF on July 1st 2015. Tsipras instead called a referendum for Sunday the 5th of July, in which he asked the Greek population to vote on whether they would say ‘Yes’ to accept the austerity conditions attached to the bailout, or ‘No’ to reject them. Without the bailout money, Greece missed its payment to the IMF on July 1, causing further problems in the economy and leading to the imposition of credit controls, limiting Greek citizens to ATM cash withdrawals of €60 a day. The Greek people voted ‘No’ in the referendum, which many analysts predicted would spell an end to Greece’s EU membership. However, after mammoth negotiations lasting through the night of Sunday 17th July and into Monday, Tsipras and the EU were able to agree the conditions for a bailout plan, preserving Greece’s EU status. Ironically the bailout plan Tsipras agreed to was much more harsh than the original bailout which had been so strongly rejected by the Greek people. Tsipras took the proposal to the Greek parliament, and was able to get it approved, despite strong opposition from some Syriza party MPs. On the 17th July the Cabinet was reshuffled, with Tsipras removing the MPs who had opposed the new bailout from his government.
In the midst of the drama during the negotiations between Greece and the Troika, many media outlets made dramatic and inaccurate claims about the real-life day-to-day situation in Greece, some of which may dissuade you from taking your holidays in Mykonos this year. We’d like to dispel some of those claims, and assure you that Mykonos is very much open for business this summer, and visitors to Greece are more welcome now than ever!
Yes, you will be able to take money out of ATMs. All cards that were accepted by ATMs before will continue to be accepted. The capital controls limit of €60 a day only applies to cards registered in Greece. With a foreign debit or credit card you are able to take out as much money as you like, subject to your daily limit set by your bank, or the limit of the Greek bank ATM you are using, whichever is lower.
You will have seen photos of long lines at ATMs on the news – many of these were taken in Athens, and many of them were as a result of people panicking due to media scaremongering! Many Foreign Offices and tour companies are advising visitors to bring Euros in cash if possible, but this is good practice anyway in case of emergencies.
Credit and debit cards are still being accepted throughout Greece without any additional regulations. Almost all establishments will be more than happy to take a credit card payment if they accept them, although some much smaller places may ask for cash instead. The New York Times interviewed an American family from Michigan who had toured all over Greece and the islands recently, and they reported that they had no problems using their credit card for purchases except at one small petrol station.
There are no problems with fuel supplies in Greece. One of the more dramatic claims made by the media was that fuel supplies were running low. This is simply not the case. You don’t need to worry about putting fuel in your hire car, or that taxis, buses, boats or aeroplanes are running low.
The Greek Ministry for Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism has stated that “The Ministry does not anticipate any disruptions in visitors’ everyday holiday experience, neither in the islands nor in mainland Greece, as there are adequate fuel supplies”. George Stathakis, Economy minister, provided assurances that “gas stations are adequately stocked and prices remain unchanged.”
There is plenty of food in Greece, you’re coming to a land of plenty! As with the claims about fuel, the furore over food shortages were nothing but lazy reporting by news outlets desperate for a dramatic story. We’ve got plenty of food and drink here in Mykonos just waiting to be enjoyed!
Elena Kountoura, the Greek deputy minister for Tourism, has assured everyone that “we have ensured the uninterrupted flow of funds to overseas suppliers, making sure imports of medical, food and other tourism or tourism-related supplies continue normally. Pharmacies, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and supermarket retailers are adequately stocked.” She has called any media reports of food shortages totally “unfounded”.
Of course it’s safe – it’s Greece! While there have been some protests in Athens (the vast majority of them peaceful), in Mykonos we’re much more focused on enjoying our beaches and partying! There is absolutely no need to be worried about safety here, all we want to do is kick back, relax, and make sure we all have a great time on the premier luxury party island in the Mediterranean.
Jason Cochran, Editor for the authoritative travel guide book series Frommers has said that “Travelers who want to go to Greece don’t have to worry about violence”. He’s pointed out that “Greece has been going through tough economic times for a few years, and tourists have never been hurt. The Greeks will be grateful that you came.”, and we couldn’t agree with him more, we can’t wait for you to join us here this summer!
This has been perhaps the most upsetting and distressing side effect of the Greek debt crisis – some people are worried they might not be welcome in Greece. We want to say, on record, that this couldn’t be further from the truth! You’re guaranteed a great time in Greece, and in Mykonos particularly we take great pride in our long-standing tradition of providing a warm and inclusive welcome to all visitors, and our chilled-out open-minded approach to life.
We’re looking forward to an action-packed and fun-filled summer in Mykonos, with preparations in full swing for the XLSIOR festival in August! A recent first-time visitor to Mykonos described her experience to an English newspaper, saying that “Should tourists be fearful to travel to Greece? In a word, no. Life on Mykonos goes on as normal, and everyone is having a great time.” This is so true!
Despite the news reports, we’re absolutely delighted that people are still choosing Greece as the destination to enjoy some much deserved R & R. Menelaos Karvounidis, Greek tourism specialist and American Express Travel destination expert reports “no one has canceled” and wholeheartedly recommends that everyone keeps visiting Greece. Christopher Elliot, author of ‘How to be the World’s Smartest Traveler’ was even more emphatic when asked about how busy Greece will be this year, saying “The bottom line on Greece is people are still going”.
The Greek Tourism Confederation, ‘Sete’ has reported minimal cancellations, with everything as normal for visitors – which means, sun, sand, sea, and fun! Simon Calder, the travel expert for the British Independent, remarks that “While life is very tough for the Greeks, for travellers it’s another good summer” – so come here and enjoy it!
Of course it will, only better! We can assure you the weather will be just as good, the beaches just as beautiful, the food just as delicious, and the parties just as intense! But don’t just take our word for it – ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents has said “Reports from our Members and holidaymakers on the ground suggest that it is business as usual in the Greek resorts with bars, shops and restaurants adequately supplied and open as usual.”
In Mykonos, our local hotel owners have reported that up to 50% of bookings have come from repeat customers, with no cancellations. In fact, with the current favourable exchange rate of Pound Sterling and Dollars to Euros, there’s rarely been a better time to come to Greece from the UK or America – you can get even more for your money than in previous years!
Mykonos Panormos Villas is proud to be part of WebHotelier’s ‘Book Direct – Support Greece’ initiative to promote tourism in Greece. WebHotelier are the company behind one of the best online booking engines in the world, and the one we use on our very own site! As part of the ‘Book Direct – Support Greece’ initiative, we promise you the best possible price online if you book with us direct. By booking with us directly, we can also assure you that the full amount from your reservation will go straight to benefitting the Greek economy, as a direct booking eliminates the commission fees charged by international agents, which can sometimes be as large as 25%.
Hopefully with this post we’ve gone some way to dispelling any notions you may have that the political and economic news about Greece will affect your holiday here. That really isn’t the case. With all the drama that’s been going on recently, we look forward to nothing more than welcoming you to Mykonos Panormos Villas for your holiday, and seeing you taking as much pleasure in our beautiful island as we know it can offer. Each and every one of you who chooses to stay with us helps us remember we’re not alone, and your choice to stay with us means the world. It’s an expression of solidarity, and helps us realise that the tough times now won’t last forever. We’ll leave the final words to Huffington Post’s travel correspondent Alex Papasimakopoulou: “I guess what we’re saying is visit Greece, keep coming like you always have. If anything, this country and its remarkable people need you more than ever… you can have some of the best experiences of your life while helping to keep a proud country on its feet. Despite the heavy burden it’s been carrying for years, Greece is still one of the most welcoming places on earth.”