Mykonos, Greece: Greeks living on popular holiday destination, Mykonos, feel the island’s cash spending foreign visitors are buffering them from the credit crisis unfolding in Athens.
The Greek government, which defaulted on €1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday, closed the country’s banks this week, limiting Greeks to withdrawing €60 — about Dh250 — a day to avoid the banking system from collapsing.
Capital control measures do not apply to foreign visitors but some businesses have stopped accepting payments by bank card fearing they will run out of cash and not be able to pay suppliers.
“It’s a myth” there is a Greek problem in Mykonos, Vana Arvaniti, branch manager at travel agency Mideast in Mykonos, told Gulf News on Thursday. “All the tourists don’t have problems. They can use their credit card ... [and] there have been no cancellations,” she said.
Thousands of tourists are flocking to the Greek Islands this summer with hundreds arriving daily on flights from across Europe and daily arrivals of cruise ships and ferries. Despite the crisis, Mykonos has kept its allure as a major summer travel destination with big name artists Fatboy Slim, Nicky Romero and Benny Benassi all scheduled to perform at nightclubs on the island this month.
Savvas, a worker at Jimmy’s takeaway food store in Mykonos, told Gulf News he was relaxed ahead of Sunday’s referendum when the country will vote on the economic policies of its creditors, in which a “no” vote could trigger Greece’s exit from the Eurozone.
“I feel OK. I care about my health. All I need is my health,” he said, adding that there would be “no problem” if Greece did leave.
A worker at a boutique clothing store in Mykonos, who declined to give his name, told Gulf News he was not worried about the capital controls because many of his customers are from the Arabian Gulf and have “plenty of money”. “[I feel] very well,” he said.
But there are concerns that the Greek Islands, which are only accessible by air and sea and rely heavily on foreign visitors to fuel the local economy, could face cash shortages.
“Greece has to find new sources of funds in the coming weeks. If not, [the] European Central Bank (ECB) will have to cut off its support to [the Greek] banking system, which will lead to a sector shutdown,” Alp Eke, director, senior economist, Economic Department at the NationalBank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), told Gulf News by email.
“It is reported that some smaller islands don’t have Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). In smaller islands it is a cash-based economy ... Definitely tourism numbers will be down [if Greece exits the Eurozone],” he said.
Greece’s tourism industry, much needed in the country’s debt ridden economy, contributed around €45 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 when indirect spending such as retail purchases are included, according to the Association of Greek Tourist Businesses.
But so far, life for visitors is going on relatively unaffected with many fully aware of what is happening in the country. On Monday, holidaymakers from Australia told Gulf News in Athens they were not worried and expected to be able to use their credit cards freely in Santorini, another popular Greek island, this week.
Rea Preza, a worker at souvenir shop, Myconian Corner, that overlooks the port where many cruise passengers arrive in Mykonos, said, the crisis has made it “very difficult” for Greeks, meanwhile a colleague (of hers) said the island was starting to feel the crisis.
“There are less cruise passengers than last year,” the colleague said.
But all shop owners Gulf News spoke to on Thursday, with credit card facilities, said they were still accepting payments by card. On Wednesday, others, including many restaurants, were not.
“For the Greek people, it’s difficult but it’s not the end of the world,” Arvaniti said. “I’m positive,” she added.