Greek tanker truck strike strands thousands of tourists

As if Greece didn’t already have enough worries, its 30,000 licensed truck drivers have decided that the middle of the tourist season would be the best time to go on strike, effectively shutting down many parts of the economy.

Without truck drivers, there are no tanker trucks on the roads, which means gas stations are almost all out of gas. And without gas, tourists can’t go anywhere.

The strike is taking place because of an argument about truck licenses. For forty years, Greek drivers were unable to get new permits, so the existing permits sold for about $390,000 on the open market.

As part of the massive bailout from the European Union, the Greek government was told that this system has to come to an end, which means anyone with the correct experience can get a truck license.

Crete, Corfu and Rhodos all say they are most likely going to go bankrupt in weeks unless the federal government puts an end to the strike. Thousands of tourists have already canceled their trip, and on Crete, 100’s of rental cars have simply been abandoned with empty gas tanks. Yesterday, the Greek government ordered the truck drivers to return to work, but they have refused, and made it clear they will not deliver anything until the licensing changes are rolled back.

[Photo credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Greece finds itself in the middle of a pefect storm – economy down, tourism down

Greece has long been one of the black sheep members of the European Union – it has always relied on huge farming subsidies as its fellow nations worried about the stability of the Greek economy.

This year, those stability worries became justified when their economy collapsed. A combination of poor financial decisions and the global economic meltdown forced the Greek government to turn to its fellow countries for a bailout.

Now the European Union has finally decided to bail the Greek out, sentiment about the scope of the bailout has left Europeans mighty annoyed with the Greek. So annoyed in fact, that many of them have decided to book their vacation elsewhere – removing one of the largest sources of Greek income.

German airline Air Berlin has described the drops as “massive”, but did not have any firm numbers to report on. Germany and the UK account for about 5 million tourists each year – a third of the 15 million that visit Greece each year. In 2009, tourism had already dropped 8%, so a continuing drop may prove to be a national disaster for Greece – especially since they’ll need to dig themselves out of their $400 billion debt pile sooner or later.