Strike in Greece leaves tourists stranded

A strike by dock workers in Greece’s main port of Piraeus has kept thousands of visitors from boarding ferries to the Greek islands.

Greece is trying to impose economic austerity measures that were dictated by the IMF and EU in exchange for a 110 billion euro ($135 billion) bailout. Trade unions object to cuts in the minimum wage and a reduction of benefits and pensions.

Railway workers and employees of the state television are also striking, adding to the chaos.

This strike, only the latest of several, comes right after a declaration by the Greek government that it will compensate any tourist stranded by industrial action. The government is already strapped for cash but will now have to put its money where its mouth is and pay for a whole bunch of hotel rooms. Good news for Piraeus hoteliers, bad news for everyone else.

Are you in Greece? Tell us your experiences in the comment section.

Photo of Piraeus courtesy user Templar52 via Wikimedia Commons.

Greek economic crisis hurts conservation workers

When Greek Minister of Culture and Tourism Pavlos Geroulanos visited the Acropolis in Athens last week, he was met by a hundred booing employees.

The heritage workers are contracted professionals who are protesting late wages and planned firings. Some haven’t been paid in 16 months and many worry their contracts won’t be renewed next year.

Greece is undergoing a serious financial crisis and struggles under a huge national debt. It recently received a 110 billion euro ($136 billion) bailout from other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund. The first installment came just in time to keep Greece from defaulting on its latest debt repayment.

Mr. Geroulanos promised action on the overdue pay.

The workers are some of the many government workers who don’t have a full-time job, but rather work on a contract basis. It is unclear how many will be fired because of the crisis, but the long restoration project at the Acropolis will continue, a third of it with EU funding.

Questions are also arising over archaeological and restoration projects all over the country. Sixteen percent of Greece’s GDP comes from tourism, yet serious cuts will have to be made in government spending to stabilize the economy. Greek’s current national debt is 115% of its GDP.

Image courtesy Thermos via Wikimedia Commons.

Norway world’s best place to live

I’m not sure if everybody wants to live in Norway, but it’s certainly at the top of the global list. The United Nations Development Program determined this based on data GDP, education and life expectancy – among other metrics – to find the best of the best, as well as the other end of the spectrum. The data’s from 2007, though, so it doesn’t reflect a post-financial crisis world.

Joining Norway are Australia and Iceland, the latter of which was a hot location until a year ago, when the entire country got an International Monetary Fund package normally reserved for the third-est of third-world countries. Yet, even with the recession in mind, Iceland (a favorite destination of mine) is still far better than Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which sit at the bottom of the list. Several other sub-Saharan African states also ranked toward the bottom because of ongoing war and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The spread is most evident in life expectancy, where a mailing address in Norway would add 30 years relative to Niger. In Niger, the current average life expectancy is 50. And, for every dollar that someone earns in Niger, the same person would pick up $85 in Norway. In Afghanistan, one can expect to live only 43.6 years.

Money matters, still. Lichtenstein continues to boast the world’s highest GDP per capital at $85,383. The 35,000 people who live there share the small principality with 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest income in the world: $298 per person per year.

The top climbers on the list for 2007 were China, Iran and Nepal.

World tourism to be slower than expected this year

The UN World Tourism Organization just changed its mind about global travel and tourism this year. I guess forecasting is easy when you can always issue a new one … as long as the previous efforts are forgotten. Well, I wish I could tell you that the UN believes we’ve turned the corner – and that travel is going to spike this year. But, it isn’t. The group has added a bit more doom and gloom to its prediction, given continued economic instability and the swine flu situation.

Worldwide, the organization predicted a 4 percent to 6 percent international tourism decline for the year – this is down from the January prediction of zero to 2 percent. The changed direction coincides with the International Monetary Fund‘s sense of the global economic situation. In January, it called for economic growth of 2 percent this year. Now, it’s predicting a fall of 1.3 percent.

For the first four months of 2009, the World Tourism Organization noted an 8 percent drop in global tourism, with only 247 international tourism arrivals. Europe‘s results were more severe than those of the world as a whole, off 10 percent. Asia was down 6 percent, and Africa and South America were up 3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Even in tough times, everybody wants to go to France, which remained the top tourism destination with 79 million arrivals. The United States moved into second place for the first time since the September 11, 2001 attacks, reclaiming its position from Spain.