Revving up

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

It is no easy matter, to erase from memory the wildfires that came after a sweltering heatwave of several days in midsummer Greece. They swept over large swathes of pine forest in the very suburbs of Athens, the nearby island of Evia as well as parts of Peloponnesus (touching even the outskirts of Ancient Olympia). Extensive loss of property, irreparable environmental disaster and – maybe most importantly – a feeling of helplessness (with no loss of life, contrary to what was the case in 2018 and in 2007; no little thing indeed!) left behind damage that will be no easy thing to absorb.

If one manages to put such images of destruction aside, the 2021 Greek summer could be said to be a moderate success. The tourist trade, starting with a lag in late spring and June, revved up in July and August: star tourist destinations were back to the record numbers of (pre-Covid) 2019; more importantly, lesser-known places took up the spillover – Tinos from Mykonos, Naxos from Paros, Western and South Crete from the more popular Eastern and North areas – coming to choking point; mainland places accessible by car also got a larger share of the incoming tourist flow – the Peloponnesus in the South, Halkidiki in the North. Moreover, this was not only an incoming wave: Greeks, coming out of protracted Covid lock-downs, helped themselves copiously to the boon of decompression the Greek summer always is.

Will this favourable condition – with some unpleasant side-effects, such as jacking-up of prices for tourist accommodation in quite short-sighted a way – prove enough for the whole of the economy to get back the loss of GDP in 2020? Will even the post-August turnover prove resilient to the upswing of Covid; the “Delta” variant was spreading wide in Greece, which slides to the red/deep-red region of alarm as declared by ECDC. Following Israel or the US, Germany declared Greece a destination the return from which makes quarantine necessary.

This reverse side of revving up, that is the increased tempo of the Covid pandemic comeback, is cause for concern in Greece as it is all around the world. Still, one cannot but hope that the self-healing properties of the Greek summer will prove durable enough to carry us to the more demanding fall and winter. Such is – after all – the function of summer.