Greece turns corner following debt crisis

It’s not all that rosy in Greece, but tourism has experienced a real boost this year.

“2017 was the year that left the crisis behind,” said Athens tour operator Dikeos Kalavrydinos. “This year, things around Athens and Greece generally are getting better day by day.”

Tourism was up 7 percent in 2017, and has been doubling the industry average for growth in recent years. That is good news in this vital sector of Greece’s economy. One in five jobs created in Greece is in the tourism sector. Some estimates are every 30 tourists create a new job for a Greek.

Kalavrydinos calls Athens one of the safest cities in the world.  And he said it boasts the best service. Terrorist attacks in other European cities have put tourists off. Turkey, which is a competitor market, has also had its share of unrest, making Greece more appealing. There are no more of the massive street protests we saw throughout the crisis.

President of the Hoteliers of Athens, Alexandros Vassilikos told Fox News, “The unrest is not here anymore. We see clients don’t worry anymore. That was a big issue for us until 2015.”

Many in the industry though complain that higher taxes imposed since Greece’s bailouts and more aggressive collection have taken a bite out of ultimate profits, but still, the sector is moving forward.

Economic experts point to other positive signs. Greece was finally able to borrow in international markets over the summer. Bond yields were down. And structural reforms have led to less state involvement in a wide range of industries, making many businesses more open and competitive.

There was growth for the first time in 2017, albeit low.

But with debt still 180 percent of GDP, there is a long way to go. Unemployment is down, but still one in five are out a job. Nearly half of young people are unemployed. And there has been significant brain drain.

But Alexandros Vassilikos says Greeks need to look for opportunity in the challenges still present.

“We cannot look at things negatively. We must look at things creatively. If you do not find a job today the way you did five or ten years ago, that means you need to change the way you are looking as well.”

He says jobs for young people need to be found through new ideas, projects and products.

Greece’s near economic collapse, many say, was the first really dire challenge the European Union faced. Since then, Brexit and Catalonia may have eclipsed that and stolen the headlines. But Luiss University Professor Nicola Borri says it’s good the Greeks didn’t go for “Grexit.”

“Greece within Europe has a bright future. It was smart of them not to exit Europe in 2015. This is in the long run will help Greece. Greece was able to go back and borrow on international markets because it is part of the Eurozone.”