Travel with Val: Tourism troubles for Greece

5:00 AM

By: Valarie D’Elia

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“Greece is heaven on earth, everyone is welcome to Greece,” says one taxi driver.

But his words come with a sense of irony. He, along with his fellow Santorini taxi drivers protesting recent austerity measures, made it more like hell for tourists visiting in peak season.

“The taxi drivers strike was fairly significant, they disrupted much of downtown,” says traveler Kevin Brogan from Pasadena, California. “Transportation to and from the airport had to be by minivan, so taxi drivers wouldn’t think there were limos trying to work around them.”

The taxi drivers are back on the road for now, but that’s not the end of tourism troubles.

In September, the Value Added Tax levied at restaurants and bars will rise to 23 percent from 13 percent.

Unlike the VAT on merchandise, tourists can’t recoup any of it.

That could keep them away from restaurants that are already losing almost half of their revenue.

“Forty percent down,” lamented restaurant manager Raymond Rukaj. “Forty percent down from three years ago. It’s been way down, business.”

When it comes to haggling with shop owners, there are few bargains to be had.

“We haven’t really tried dealing or making any purchases, so no and no one has approached us with deals,” says Sally Browne from Minneapolis.

All of this on top of an unfavorable exchange rate doesn’t bode well for tourism.

“I can’t remember the last exchange rate, $1.42, it’s a little pricey. We feel like we are helping the recession here,” says Brogan.

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