Storms in Greece: how to save the tourists

Posted by Antonis D. Papagiannidis 15/07/2019 0 Comment(s) Economia Blog,

A double-whammy storm battered Greece in the very middle of the tourist season. First, a hurricane struck Halkidiki peninsula, in Central Macedonia making 6 victims among the tourists (plus one local fisherman, who tried to save his boat); then, a storm swept North Peloponnesus with heavy rainfall and hundreds of visitors having to be evacuated from a local festival, by opening emergency access to the highway so as to free revelers from a surging torrent.


The usual wave of recriminations about faults in infrastructure struck, with bits of political infighting - but such is the Greek-Greek tradition. The fact that the pan-European emergency-call number 112 has not been activated in Greece while preparations to that effect had been underway for the better part of the last decade, allowed for further infighting. Vehement debates about the impact of climate change in a fragile Mediterranean setting - winter and spring saw torrential rains eating away the parched mountainsides of Crete, adding new risks for trekkers and climbers - started again.


But the Halkidiki hurricane, a suddenly event from which - to be honest - there was no real protection, brought to the surface a new worry for Greece. The country has had the good fortune of living the experience of rapid growth in incoming tourism. In fact, had not the tourist wave nearly doubled within less than a decade (a decade that coincided with Greece’s own deep economic crisis), the country would have lived a crossing of the desert. Places like Halkidiki, Crete, the Peloponnesus, the Aegean Islands and - of course! - Athens proper, have felt submerged by the tourist wave. Hotels cropped up everywhere; touring opportunities flourished, as did AirBnB and the suchlike. Russians, Ukrainians and East Europeans; Arabs of all provenance; the ever-present influx of Chinese; Israelis; even Indians joined the party. While the usual crowd of West Europeans and increasing numbers of Americans keep coming.


So, if and when this multicolored and multi-language crowd meets with new-age storms in a country whose own population (and infrastructure, and authorities such as they are...) is less-than prepared to face them, a new generation of problems has to be faced. Growing-cum-climate change pains...


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