Sunset isle Santorini tries to ignore Greek debt crisis

Twenty euros ($26) for a pair of flip-flops, 10 euros for a five-minute taxi ride and store prices that send even locals to Athens. Welcome to Santorini, the island that forgot Greece's economic crisis.

Voted the world's best island by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2011, the Cyclades tourism powerhouse continues to live in an inflation bubble as the rest of the country sees salaries and pensions plummet by up to 40 percent.

The enduring boom is built on money spent by thousands of travellers who flock to Santorini by cruise ship, ferry and plane each day, drawn by the island's whitewashed villages, volcanic beaches and jaw-dropping sunset vistas.

The island was home to a technologically advanced Bronze Age civilisation that was destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption in the 17th century BCE.

The eruption collapsed part of the island, shaping a deep caldera basin and etching steep cliffs that are Santorini's main attractions today, in addition to the quality wines grown on the island's volcanic soil.

The reopening of the archaeological site of Akrotiri, a Bronze Age urban centre that boasted multi-storeyed buildings, magnificent wall paintings and an elaborate drainage system, further boosts the island's appeal.

Nearly 180,000 foreign nationals flew into Santorini last year, up 10.5 percent, and about 80 percent of all visitors are non-Greek, many of them honeymoon travellers and retired couples.

But even visitors with deeper pockets are now starting to chafe.

"I just paid 3.50 euros ($4.60) for a can of Coca-Cola, it's the most expensive I've ever had in my life," protested Denise, a 59-year-old from Rio de Janeiro on a 40-day southern Europe tour with her husband.

The Brazilian couple were fortunate. With the help of a local car rental operator, they secured a small room with a splendid view of the caldera for just 60 euros a night, bargained down from a first asking price of 170 euros.

For most of their seven-day stay, they were the hotel's sole guests.

Online, visitors question the island's luxury accommodation pedigree given the state of many rooms.

"There is no question that the views here are amazing, but this is an unfortunate example of greedy, unprofessional hoteliers jumping on the 'luxury boutique' bandwagon and doing it on the cheap," one traveller wrote on the tripadvisor.com site.

Most of Santorini's hotels are currently near-empty but despite that, a double room with a caldera view can easily cost 300 euros ($395) a night, and suites are often priced at over 700 euros.

Many establishments arbitrarily claim five-star status.

"Santorini has a unique product but it's true that the cost should be linked to the level of service received," noted George Drakopoulos, general manager of the association of Greek tourism enterprises.

He stressed however that "the market has a way of correcting such issues," and added: "Nobody forces people to travel to Santorini."

A souvenir vendor in the island capital of Fira complained meanwhile that "we have to use binoculars to see tourists, they did not even come for the Catholic Easter holiday.

"In previous years we were 60 percent full at this time of year. Now it's down to 20-30 percent," he said.

As for local inhabitants, the minimum salary in Greece has been slashed to under 600 euros and many employees clear less than 1,000 euros a month as the government cuts spending to balance the strained public finances.

Hotel and shop staff on Santorini earn similar wages.

"I make 25 euros a day and I can't afford to give it away for a kilo of meat or a return taxi fare," says Despoina, a hotel worker.

"When I first arrived, I was asked to pay between 300 and 400 euros to rent a room," she said, the equivalent of monthly rent for a flat in Athens.

"I've lived on Santorini for 10 years but I haven't shopped here in three," said a Moldovan shop worker. "I ask friends to bring me stuff from Athens."

Challenged over Santorini's exorbitant prices, many locals shrug.

"We also live in Greece and we too have trouble making ends meet," said a handicraft shop owner.

"It's true that prices should be lower if we are to attract visitors during the crisis," a taxi driver admitted after trying to claim a double fare.

"But we only have five months to earn money for the entire year," she said.

Yiannis Stournaras, general director of the Greek foundation for social and economic research, notes that tourist prices have not dropped as radically as costs for businesses.

"It is a fact that wages go down but prices keep on the same level for the tourists," he told AFP.

"In the case of Santorini, it might be because it is a unique place and the hotel owners don't want to underestimate their product. But it is an issue here -- prices do not adapt and it is not normal," he said.

The union of Santorini hoteliers was not immediately available for comment.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano
    Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano

    Government troops captured Sunday a bomb and weapons factory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday. Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the captured bomb and weapons factory is located inside an area controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako at Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano. …

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors
    No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors

    Instead of filing an opposition, ombudsman prosecutors filed a manifestation yesterday expressing belief that there is no urgent need for Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to visit his son at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “Based on the clinical abstract issued by the Asian Hospital on patient (Cavite) Vice-governor (Jolo) Revilla, which was submitted by accused Revilla in support of his Urgent Motion, Vice-governor Revilla is in stable condition and has stable vital signs, as of March 1, …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say
    How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say

    CAIRO (AP) — Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded. …

  • Lawmakers split on tax exemption for Pacquiao
    Lawmakers split on tax exemption for Pacquiao

    Colleagues of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao at the House of Representatives backed yesterday a proposal to exempt his earnings from his May 2 fight with American Floyd Mayweather from income tax. Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares has urged Pacquiao to promptly pay taxes on his May 2 earnings, which are projected to reach at least $120 million (more than P5.2 billion). …

  • Recruitment firm accused of worldwide scam
    Recruitment firm accused of worldwide scam

    Filipinos aspiring to work overseas should avoid dealing with a recruitment agency that has duped jobseekers worldwide, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday. The National Bureau of Investigation has padlocked Global Visas Inc., which is based in Cebu. Baldoz said the agency’s parent company, ICS Global Visas Inc. based in the United Kingdom, has reportedly collapsed and left thousands of applicants without jobs.  “Global Visas was in the limelight this week, following its reported …

  • Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer
    Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer

    MOSCOW (AP) — The 23-year-old Ukrainian model who was with slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov tearfully recounted Monday their last dinner in a chic Red Square restaurant and their walk onto a nearby bridge — but said she did not see the gunman who pulled the trigger. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options