Those of us who love Greece and her myriad islands, catering for all kinds of holiday makers, are worried to hear bookings are down. In an economy so dependent on tourism this is bad news indeed. John Manuel, an author and blogger based in Rhodes, has kindly given me permission to reblog this thought provoking post from Rambling from Rhodes.
Y’know, many of us who live out here, plus many who resolutely (to their credit) continue to visit this country, are getting heartily furious and fed up with the way the UK (and no doubt other countries’) media seem to be continuing with their campaign to make it seem as though a holidaymaker would be quite deranged to want to come here.
I, along with all sane and decent people, am distressed beyond words by the plight of so many of those refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Whether all of the refugees are genuine or whether some are following some secret agenda to convert the west to Islam is neither here nor there really. The fact is that one can see young children and babies living in makeshift shelters at international borders because of a distinct dragging of the feet by rich politicians when it comes to sorting our how to help such poor unfortunates.
But, here in Greece, where there has of course been a huge problem with the sheer numbers of people washing up on the shore of the islands, there remains a rich wonderland, a paradise for holidaymakers to enjoy, notwithstanding all of the foregoing.
What prompted me to write this post is the fact that already I’m hearing the same old unreasoning fears from folk who are sensible enough to ignore the hype and book their visit to Greece for this coming summer season. They’re telling me (and we’ve heard all of this for six or seven years now, even before the refugee crisis began and it was owing to the financial crisis) that their friends and family are saying when they tell them that they’re coming to Greece, “What are you going there for?” Shock horror!
The reason, of course for such comments is that they are willing to swallow the distorted picture being presented once again by the media: that if you come to a Greek island you won’t be able to move for people sleeping rough, causing problems in the streets, begging, doing their ‘business’ by the side of the road, perhaps you’ll be swamped under the weight of discarded life jackets along the coastline. Whatever, most of it is grossly overstated and far from accurate.
There are even people who were holidaying on Lesbos (for example) last year who lent a hand in helping the local Greeks to care for the bedraggled folk being washed up on the shoreline and even went home feeling fulfilled that they’d done something for their fellow suffering humans. OK, one could argue that when you’re on holiday you don’t want to be confronted with the suffering of others, at least not while you recharge your batteries before getting back to reality. Yet that hasn’t stopped millions from taking their holidays in countries in Africa or Asia where such things have always been a feature and yet the tourists still go there.
I was moved almost to tears by this letter from a very erudite Greek from Lesbos. Those words eloquently demonstrate why it’s even more important for tourists to support the Greek islanders this season. For the fickle tourist to abandon Greece in its hour of need is adding insult to injury and will cause yet more suffering and hardship, this time not only to the refugees, but to those who so valiantly helped them (and continue to do so) during all of last season and into the new year.
Anyone who knows Greece well is of course aware of the irritating and frustrating bureaucracy one has to deal with here. Lots of British who live here have paid out untold extra cash for unexpected paperwork in order to legalise their properties for example. The goalposts seem to be always moving this way and that. All of this aside, the day-to-day experience of meeting and interacting with local, humble residents is always an enriching experience in Greece. the culture of giving your last morsel of food, of opening your home to complete strangers, runs very deep in this society. It’s what brings true Grecophiles back here again and again.
This year, more than ever, Greece needs tourists to come, especially to the eastern Aegean islands. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that those who do come, in the face of their friends and family raising their eyebrows in amazement at their apparent recklessness, will be the ones who come off the winners.
Come here, have a good holiday, then go home and tell your friends how they’ve missed out. Hopefully, you’re one of those who doesn’t let propaganda make you swallow half-truths and distorted pictures.
To enjoy more rambles in Rhodes click here.
Meanwhile, wherever you fancy in Greece during 2016 you can be sure of a very warm welcome. X