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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 August 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2015 13 FEATURE crisis? SYROS, GREECE On the island of Syros, one of the smallest islands in the Cyclades, life also seems remarkably undisturbed - but in a much different way to Mykonos. Here tourists can wander the streets of the elegant Vaporia district in Ermoupoli, admiring historic, colourful mansions of ship owners, practically alone. It is almost eerily quiet, a great find amid the country's busy tourist season. Syros is a rare example of an island where tourism is not the number one industry. That's because during the 19th century, the island grew to be the commercial, naval and cultural centre of Greece, and while that dominance has faded, Syros is still home to many shipyards and textile manufacturers. "The major problem caused by the economic crisis is there are fewer jobs," says Daniela Winkler, a longtime resident of the island. "But Syros is less impacted, because people here own a lot of land, they can go fishing, families have two or three incomes, so there is always one person with a job. And many families share a car amongst two or three people, so they make ends meet and don't feel the crisis as much." Most of the tourists who visit Syros are Greek, meaning the island has seen a drop in its tourist revenues. Some on Syros, however, may have a slightly different opinion of how the island is faring, Winkler says. That's because about 80 per cent of the tourist revenue on Syros comes from Greek citizens on vacation, not international tourists. And locals are not travelling much while they're cashstrapped, meaning even this island is not altogether immune to the country's economic woes. Syros' many shipyards are also at a standstill, as workers remain home while not being paid. Many large Greek companies tied to the tourist industry have managed to insulate themselves from the crisis, and as a result continue business as usual. Filippidis, the director of product development for Celestyal Cruises, says his company's banking is all done outside of Greece, ensuring its cash flow is not hampered by the limit on withdrawals from Greek banks. What's more, business for the company, which offers travellers authentically rich experiences by exposing them to exclusive local food, wine and cultural offerings, has actually been better than projected. "This was going to be a year with a 25 per cent increase for us," Filippidis says. "Now it looks like it's going to be even more than that." MYKONOS, GREECE Still, there are some important tips to keep in mind when visiting the country now. To begin with - yes, it is important to have cash. Not because ATMs and banks aren't functioning, but because many Greeks - having been cash-starved by the €60 withdrawal limit being enforced by banks - prefer doing business in cash. Shopkeepers, Paradise Club in Mykonos by night. particularly in Athens are often not accepting credit cards Athens, are often not ac epting credit cards. On the plus side, travelling to Greece now can be a bargain, say industry insiders, who note that accommodation prices in many places are down. Homestay.com, for instance, is advertising villas in Kounoupas, Mykonos for as little as $134 a night and a detached house in Karidiandika, near Potamos, starting at just $100 per night. Meanwhile, the good news is that Greek banks reopened earlier this week, and a deal between Greece and its creditors is moving forward. It's hard to predict how much improvement this development will bring in the immediate future. One Greek cab driver, upon hearing the news, grumbled that the only difference now, with banks open, is that people will be able to go inside to get their €60 rather than wait at an ATM. LIFE WILL GO ON IN GREECE Still others seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief with the latest development in the Greek economic calamity. In the Mikrolimano neighbourhood of Athens last Friday night, not long after the news of a deal was announced, the mood of the trendy waterfront community populated mostly by locals populated mostly by locals appeared considerably upbeat and hopeful. It was a balmy night, and the streets and bars were bustling with people happily chatting and impeccably dressed for a night out. One restaurant after another along the harbour-front Koumoundourou Street was packed with crowds of people who all appeared eager to simply have a carefree night. As fireworks filled the sky over the harbour, Filippidis pointed out that while there is a variety of opinion about the debt agreement Greece is entering into, by many estimates, it is a step forward. "It's a positive development," says Filippidis. "Of course a small percentage of people feel it would have been better to go bankrupt or to go back to the [Greek] drachma, but that would have been a disaster." "Greeks are hopeful people, thinking positively," he adds. "Unfortunately we are not great savers. We live and love and don't think about down the road." With that blithe outlook, life, it seems, will go on for the Greeks and for its booming tourist industry. Source: MainStreet Little Venice quay flooded with tourists. Mykonos island. Cyclades, Agean Sea, Greece. Ermou Street, Athens’ main shopping district, didn’t do so badly either.
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