TSD’s Parthena Moisiadis recently visited the Greek island of Thassos. The northernmost island in Greece, located in the Agean Sea, Thassos is known for its antiquity and for its beaches.
The pebble encrusted beaches of Thassos, Greece were once cluttered with lounging Greeks holding thin cigarettes in one hand and sweating glasses of Frappe in the other, but this year, the smoke clouds are scarce and the coffee orders are few.
With insight from three aspects of tourism on the island — hotel bookings, travel accommodations, and entertainment — Filippidis enlightened me on the cold truth behind the sparkling water of the hotel pool and the luminous colors of the Great Fun Train.
“Although now is a busy time for us, our sales in general have decreased by 30-40%,” he said. “And there are no Greek bookings,” he reiterated.
George Traynor, an employee of Marina Studios, told me about his wife’s experience on the island while tending to customers’ drinks at the poolside bar.
“My wife works for a UK tour company that oversees nine hotels on the island, all of which are booked from May 6th through September 3rd. While there’s been a noticeable decrease in Greek spending, British tourism has remained steady,” he said.
The lack of Greek vacationers is ever apparent as I walked past the rows of tavernas and cafes that line the sandy coast. The air is thick with indiscernible conversation and even the cars in the area primarily sport license plates from neighboring countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania.
Despite the increase in foreigners to the island, local hotel employee Susan Davidson said that these Eastern European tourists don’t spend excess money. “Even though the island looks really busy, if you look inside the bars and restaurants, they are empty. The tourists spend their time on the beach and then head back to their rooms.”
And perhaps this lack of business lends to the lack of jobs on the island for locals.
Twenty-year-old Komninos has spent many summers on the island with his father who leases apartments on the island. Once Komninos completed his mandatory time with the army in Greece, he was unable to find work for quite some time.
“After seven months of sitting around I found a job through city hall,” he said. Komninos works five days a week from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon cleaning and repairing the roads on the island for about 3.88 euros an hour. That’s about $4.80, $2.45 less than minimum wage in Delaware.
“It’s a five-month-long program,” he explained. “Then I’ll need to find another job, but I doubt I will,” he concluded. ”I don’t have anywhere else to go,” he added. “But if I could, I would leave.”
Iain Saxon, owner of Agean Cafe Bar, said that he does not plan to return to England despite the economic situation. ”Most of Europe has problems too,” he said. “Most of the world does actually.” Saxon also said that he is not worried about the future of Greece. “You get through problems,” he reasoned.
Traynor, also of British descent, said that he wasn’t worried either. “I live for the day,” he said. “It’s the local Greeks of the island who should be worrying.”
But even island local Filippidissaid that he wasn’t concerned about the future.
“I believe in my country,” he said. “Not in its politics, but in its people.”
Filippidis continued to make the distinction between Greek politics and Greek people. ”Greece has been in the media a lot recently and I think people have the wrong idea about us. They say the Greeks stole the money, but I didn’t. The politicians did, not normal people like you and me.
“People have to remember that we are still rich with natural resources. We have a strong sun and beautiful beaches, and that’s why people are still coming.”
Of course, the wealth of the island itself is undeniable. The mountains are thick with firs, the ground is heavy with white marble, and the bees are sticky with the honey. While the people of Greece may be facing economic hardships, the islands of Greece will continue to thrive.
Parthena Moisiadis is a 2011 graduate of Wilmington Friends School and a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing and Communication.