A band of thunder showers passed over Greece last week. Symi got off lightly with a few muddy sprinkles and a general clearing of the air. Rhodes and many parts of the Greek mainland as well as neighbouring Turkey had heavy downpours, enough, in some cases, to cause local flooding. We are unlikely to see any significant rain now until late October or even November. The Southern Aegean has one of the longest summer droughts in the Mediterranean. The last time Symi had rain strong enough to set the gutters flowing to fill cisterns was the end of February. It looks as though 2018 is going to be a very long hot dry summer.
The first Olympic Holiday people arrived on Symi last week, marking the beginning of the official tourist season. 25 years ago there were many package holiday companies servicing Symi, notable among them being Laskarina, Manos, Kosmar, Small World, Travel a la Carte and Hidden Greece. Accommodation was a mixture of restored traditional local houses, privately owned small studio and apartment developments designed to look just like Symi’s traditional houses and small pensions. The emphasis was on authentic island life, simple self-catering and lots of convivial dining in local tavernas. Symi’s tourist businesses timed their openings to coincide with these arrivals, knowing that there would be enough visitors staying on the island to provide them with customers in bars, cafes, tavernas, excursions and the like.
Now that certainty has gone. Most of those package holiday companies have either dropped Symi from their listings as too expensive and awkward to get to (the shrinking ferry schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy) or the companies themselves have disappeared, gobbled up in the eternal quest for ever cheaper ‘value for money’ deals that eventually became unsustainable.
All inclusive packages to resort hotels in Rhodes are good for consumers who want to know exactly how much their holiday is going to cost and don’t really care if it is Greece, Spain, Egypt or Turkey as long as the sun shines, the pool is full and the food and drink bountiful and free. Unfortunately these packages are death to local economies as holiday guests seldom venture forth into the community, prices are pared down to the last cent so wages in these complexes are often below the legal minimum and limited local resources are stretched to breaking point.
Last summer Rhodes found itself in the previously unheard of situation of running out of water. So much water was being diverted to hotel complexes with their swimming pools, manicured lawns and unlimited showers that there was no water available for the locals. Villages and towns found themselves without water for days on end. A situation with which Symiots are only too familiar – this is why we all have cisterns – but for which Rhodes is poorly equipped.
Ironically, high value property owners who had invested significant sums in purchasing holiday homes and villas on the island found themselves seriously inconvenienced for the benefit of low value all inclusive holidaymakers whose tourist spend largely stayed in the pockets of the international holiday companies hosting their holidays. A state of affairs hardly likely to encourage further foreign investment.
That’s probably enough of the serious food for thought for today. If you are still reading, have a good week! Remember, you can always join in the discussion by commenting, or by emailing me here.