Travel – Pricey paradise

2012-06-16 09:06

Twenty euros (about R210) for a pair of flip-flops, €10 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 last year, 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%.

The enduring boom is built on money spent by thousands of travellers who flock to Santorini by cruise ship, ferry and plane, 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 17th century BC.

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 multistoreyed buildings, magnificent wall paintings and an elaborate drainage system, further boosts the island’s appeal.

Nearly 180 000 foreigners flew into Santorini last year. But even visitors with deeper pockets are starting to chafe.

“I just paid €3.50 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 Brazilians 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 a night, bargained down from a first asking price of €170. For most of their seven-day stay, they were the hotel’s sole guests.

Online, visitors question the island’s luxury accommodation pedigree.

“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 near-empty but despite that, a double room with a caldera view can easily cost €300 a night, and suites are often priced at €700.

“Santorini has a unique product but 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 go to Santorini.”

A souvenir vendor in the island capital of Fira complained 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% full at this time of year. Now it’s down to 20% to 30%,” he said.

As for locals, the minimum salary in Greece has been slashed to less than €600 and many clear less than €1 000 a month as the state cuts spending to balance the strained public finances.

Hotel and shop staff on Santorini earn similar wages.

“I make €25 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 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, 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.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.