Once again Greece shouts “oxi!” (no), and it sends shivers through Europe. This time it’s not taking the moral high ground by saying no to Mussolini and the fascists, it’s to the European Union and the repayment of its debts.
I’m not a going to get into the details (and this is most certainly not a financial blog), so let me just put it this way: Greece’s economy is over-burdened by debt. The country owes billions to everyone, including its own people. A long-lasting set of entitlements and pension programs is adding to the burden as well as the attitude of most Greeks that paying taxes isn’t necessary.
The main industries in Greece are food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal production, mining and — most importantly — tourism. But it hasn’t experienced any growth in the industrial sector since 2014, the unemployment rate hovers around 27% and isn’t rebounding anytime soon. To put that statistic in perspective, Americans thought the sky was falling back in 2009 when the unemployment rate reached 9.9%.
The point I’m trying to make is that the country is flat out broke. Even if the Greek government forcefully collected all the taxes owed them and slashed its public spending it would be a mere raindrop in an Aegean Sea of debt.
You hear phrases like “country in crisis,” and “protests shut down Athens,” and you may think it’d be a bad time to visit. Who wants to be caught in a mob of angry Greeks? I sure don’t. But just like the long-held Greek tradition of avoiding paying your taxes, the tradition of showing your guests hospitality is still ingrained in their culture.
You will be treated as an honored guest in their country, especially since you are bringing much-needed cash into the economy. The $1,000-$2,000 you spend on a week’s vacation in the islands or on the mainland is important to each local economy. Not all of the money you spend will find its way into the coffers of the government, but it’s sure to end up in the pockets of the tavern owner or pension host.
Your tourist dollars are going to make or break the local economies of the white-washed villages and seaside towns you admire each day as you stare longingly at your office calendar of Greece. And when you plan your trip, consider visiting the ones outside of the popular cruise ship circuit. I guarantee they’ll be just as beautiful and even more thankful for your visit.