Monday, April 25, 2016

TOURISM - Aegean Island of Lesbos

"A waypoint for refugees, Lesbos braces for hardship as tourism declines" PBS NewsHour 4/19/2016


SUMMARY:  The island of Lesbos is one of the Aegean's most idyllic locales, and long a destination for tourism in Greece.  But local residents and businesses are bracing for potential economic catastrophe, as tens of thousands of vacationers are staying away because of the island's new role as a landing zone for refugees.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on efforts to reinvigorate tourism.

HELEN STEDMAN, British Bird Watcher:  I have seen a cormorant.  I have seen a Ruppell's warbler.  I have seen a sub-alpine warbler.

MALCOLM BRABANT (NewsHour):  Every year, spring in Lesbos lures millions of migrating birds and British pensioner Helen Stedman.  Unlike other tourists, troubled by images of suffering and misery, she and her keen bird-watching partner, Jeff Bailey, have remained faithful to an island they believe typifies unadulterated Greece.

HELEN STEDMAN:  I feel sad for the islanders.  The economy is suffering.  And we have noticed that restaurants that we have favored before have closed.  They're not there anymore.  They have gone bankrupt.

The people can't — the locals can't afford to pay wages.  And they're just not opening.  Tourism is their biggest income in this island.  And if we don't come and support them, then they're not going to survive,

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Seasonal worker Nikos Paspalatelis is helping his former boss prepare the hotel for the summer.  Married with two small children, Paspalatelis has worked here for almost 20 years, but he's been laid off this summer, which means his state insurance won't be paid, which means he won't be entitled to unemployment benefit in the winter, when there's no seasonal work.

NIKOS PASPALATELIS, Newly Unemployed:  I'm not going to say that we're angry, because angry is something you do if somebody make you very big damage to you.  But this is — I hope this will be only for one year, this damage.  Maybe if you ask me maybe in two or three years, if this situation continue, I would say, yes, I'm going to be hungry — angry — sorry.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  This hotel was on the front line.  The owners estimate more than 1,000 boats landed on the beach next to their taverna, most during the peak season.  German water sports instructor Wolfgang Punke has come to say farewell and remove his gear.

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