The Greek economy is in critical condition. Stories about the Greek government’s austerity plans–and the strikes to protest it–are headline new in Europe.
So what does the Greek economic crisis mean for a visitor to Greece?
Tourism accounts for almost 20 percent of the Greek gross domestic product and more than 17.5 million tourists visited Greece in pre-recession 2008. Greece is one of the top 15 tourist destinations in the world, but 2009 saw a decline in visitors and 2010 looks challenging at best. Realizing the importance of maintaining the cash cow that is tourism, the Greek government lowered landing fees at most airports and cut docking fees for cruise ships.
Strikes by Greek workers have the potential to disrupt travel plans and even in good economic times Greece experiences work stoppages aplenty. Civil servants went on strike April 22 and there were minor clashes in Athens. The Greek government must implement even stricter austerity plans to meet its lending needs and additional strikes seem inevitable during 2010.
The Greek financial situation has helped push down the value of the euro against the dollar, making a visit to Greece, or anywhere in the European Union (EU), relatively less expensive for Americans. An EU bailout of Greece could hurt economic recovery throughout Europe and potentially elsewhere. But for the moment, Greece’s economic woes have dampened prices and made the country less expensive for foreign visitors. As long as the crisis remains primarily economic, bargain seeking visitors are likely to consider Greece as a destination in 2010.