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Optimism about Greek tourism is greatly exaggerated

02 September 2013 / 16:09:25  GRReporter
4768 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

In early August, a tourist guide’s publication on the Greek social networks had provoked a stormy debate as it described how, under the scorching sun, hundreds of tourists were waiting for hours at the ticket offices at the entrance of the Acropolis to visit the archaeological site.

A week ago, the issue of concentration of a large number of tourists was raised again but at the level of responsible institutions this time. Minister of Culture Panos Panagiotopoulous has convened a session to form a commission which will have to solve the problems related to the access of visitors to the Acropolis. The commission involves representatives of the Union of Greek Cruise Ship Owners and Associated Members. Contrary to the expectations, the union of guards of archaeological sites in Greece did not take part in the meeting. It states in an angry message published on the website of the organization that it had not been invited. "Nevertheless, we will participate in every serious and responsible attempt to resolve the problems that concern the employees in the tourism sector."



All this is happening at the end of the tourist season and, according to the government, the number of visitors to Greece will exceed 17 million. GRReporter sought the opinion of the people who are very close to the tourists and who often do things that are not part of their professional obligations in order to serve and help them.

"The problem is not new, it has existed for years. However, it is more pressing now as the number of cruise ships is growing and especially because the majority of them are simultaneously berthing at Greek ports. The situation is similar in Santorini, for example, where the visitors form huge queues at the lift which goes to the resort. Things are more apparent in Athens because the Acropolis is the ‘window’ of Greece," Kriton Piperas, vice-president of the Association of Tourist Guides, told GRReporter.

He is pessimistic about the formation of a commission because "such commissions are often being formed but we do not see any results from this. It would be good if they involved people who are familiar with the problem. It would be good to hear the opinion of the tourist guides and the guards of archaeological sites because no one has ever sought our opinion."

Kriton Piperas states that the tourist guides have specific proposals. "One of them is to coordinate the cruise ships and the visits to the Acropolis in order for them to take place at a specific time, such as the visits to the Acropolis Museum. A real solution is to open up another exit door because, in fact, the problem is the concentration of a large number of visitors at the entrance of the site which is also its exit." He also adds that, upon leaving the Acropolis, the tourists are walking along a narrow and steep path which is quite dangerous because of the lack of railings. "We have been warning about this for years but nobody listens to us. I am afraid that we will first witness an accident and we will deal with the problem afterwards. The point is to avoid this."


The vice-president of the Association of Tourist Guides does not believe that the number of visitors is higher this year. "Like I said, the Acropolis will naturally be overcrowded when 5-7 ships are simultaneously berthing at the port of Piraeus which has been the case over the past five years. The new ticket checking devices are slowing down the work at the site as well. They are not suitable for outdoor use and are few in number. In addition, the visitors should give their tickets to the employees who are checking the tickets at the entrance which is further slowing things down. The devices were installed at least three years before putting them into operation and the problems began when we started using them. The only solution is to change them."



According to Kriton Piperas, the increase in the number of tourists, which is widely discussed, is unreal. "If we count all the people on a cruise ship, including the staff and the people who do not go ashore, then our calculations are not accurate. The groups of tourists staying at all inclusive hotels should not be taken into account either, as they are not spending a single euro. My personal opinion is that we should not talk about numbers but about quality of tourists. Greece should aim at this. In return, the trips by bus to various sites outside Athens have decreased to a minimum and the only thing left is the cruise ships. However, this is "supermarket" tourism and Greece should not follow it. Cruises are suitable for places that do not offer anything more than that. In Greece we have many interesting sites which remain untapped."

According to Kriton Piperas, the problems that have not been solved for years include:

- The fact that many sites close at 3:00 pm, the archaeological site and the museum in ancient Corinth for example.

- The discussion on the number of guards at the archaeological sites which takes place every year.

- The uncertainty regarding the opening hours of all sites throughout the country in the summer.

Tags: EconomyTourismthe AcropolisVisitorsCruise tourismArchaeological sitesTourist guides
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