Now Greece tourism is going to resurrect the North of Evia Island after wildfires devastated wide swaths of the paradise that stretches from the Pelion Peninsula to the coast of Attika. I use the biblical termanology because some officials in the industry seem poised to part the waters of the Aegean.
I promised myself I would take it easy in criticizing Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis. I feel like such a betrayer to my own conscience now. But if this man and his contemporaries in the hotel sector just cannot stop saying stupid things. At a moment when most Greeks question whether or not tomorrow will bring yet another catastrophe, the leadership sees fit to play god.
The miracle in this case being tourism rescuing Evia from the end of it’s 2021 tourism calamity. Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis was on Evia making an inspection, and was joined by Hellenic Hoteliers Federation (POX) President Grigoris Tasios and Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) President Alexandros Vassilikos, among a few other “decisionmakers” when Tasios let slip:
“Once again the sector will shoulder the burden so that Evia can rise from the ashes.”
Of course, the hotelier was practicing some major sucking up with the big chested, huge brained, all knowing Theoharis has been commenting on how the tourism season has rescued Greece. I think, ordinarily, Tasios would not be so kissy-kissy if Theoharis had not come into some funding for industry players affected by recent events. The most recent case in point being a 40-million-euro support package for the reconstruction of Northern Evia announced by the Region of Central Greece on Tuesday.
These Three Musketeers of Greece travel businesses have crossed their pointy foils overhead to herald how tourism will band together to lift Evia hotels from despair, and out of an environmental collapse. Then the rasping tinkle of those blades rang out from the digital pages of GTP:
“Earlier this month, the HCH made available more than 800 rooms in Attica, Evia, and the Peloponnese to provide accommodation for victims of the wildfires that ravaged Greece for three weeks.”
En garde! Of course those hotel rooms will be compensated for by the government of, by, and for the people of Greece. Touche!
And just when our attentions were briefly diverted by riot police at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier using water cannons and teargas on anti-vaxxers in Athens. For me personally, I almost missed the most recent official idiocy because of news Greece now demands new testing requirements from unvaccinated travelers from Bulgaira, North Macedonia, Pakistan, and Russia. I feel inept for thinking that unvaccinated travelers already had to be tested? Anyway, you get my point, I hope. If not, then consider other Greek officials peddling backwards trying to avoid any accountability for the mediocre response to the wildfire situation. AP reports Nikos Hardalias saying:
“We handled an operationally unique situation, with 586 fires in eight days during the worst weather conditions we’ve seen in 40 years. Never was there such a combination of adverse factors in the history of the fire service.”
Excuse me, but didn’t the firefighters handle the situation as best they could? And. Wasn’t it the responsibility of the ministers of Greece to anticipate how global warming and “forecast” heat waves would negatively impact areas of Greece? We would not need to resurrect Evia had their been a better plan in place. One journalist put things in a nutshell:
“An executive state and an elite whose priority is profit-making cannot lead the way in the struggle against wildfires.”
The western U.S. and Russia’s Siberia were already ablaze before Evia Island went up in smoke. Greek authorities have underfunded firefighting, there’s no cohesive firefighting plan to address the emerging situation, and the Greek people are simply not buying the excuses anymore. Those who watched their lives go up in flames will never forget how the response was too little too late for them. Al Jazeera’s Matthaios Tsimitakis says it all here. Philip Chrysopoulos at Greek Reporter paints the rest of the picture:
“The Evia fires brought about the largest environmental catastrophe in Greek history, as almost half of the island has been reduced to ashes and the rich green of the land has turned to black.”
This story touches on the real spiritual aspect of these catastrophes. While money grubbing politicias and hotel executives vie to save their businesses, a priest and his congregation at Agioi Taxiarches Church are devastated. An image of Fr. Ioannis Siafleki sifting through the ruins of is gripping. It’s a stunning counter commentary on hoteliers and politicians acting heroic, pretending to be almighty saviors. The video below from Greek Reporter stands in stark contrast to commentaries from bean counters who want the world to believe they can resurrect Evia.
I cannot contain my contempt for the people in charge of this country who are not only caloused to their fellow countrymens’ plight, but who become even more emboldened the more their mediocrity shines. A smart man will seek good council and advise before speaking, but these fools will star in the face of villagers forced to move away from their homes forever. How are hoteliers going to resurrect Father Siafleki’s Kokkinomilia congregation? How will hotel revenues on the beach help all the small places made of Greek lives, livelihoods, and souls? By gobbling up EU or Greek funds that might be used to rebuild churches?
Perhaps the padre’s flock can gather to pray at one of Alexandros Vassilikos’ hotels? I’ll wager Theoharis would be willing to conduct services, if so. Maybe tourism can Resurrect Evia in this way?