It should come as no surprise when a tourist destination interested in promoting itself as an irresistible draw to a targeted customer base launches an organized public relations campaign where warts are hidden, defects glossed over, and serious issues ignored. That is to be expected. After all, it’s advertising.
But then there are those campaigns to which celebrity destinations are particularly susceptible where publicity efforts are intended to benefit the interests of a few without regard to the ultimate impact on the overall health of the community. The most insidious sort, those which masquerade as hard news stories, offer about as accurate a presentation of reality as a pin-up photo of a Kardashian sister in a string bikini.
Over the past week several such articles have appeared in the Greek and international press portraying Mykonos as rolling in money, untouched by Greece’s economic crisis, attracting more and better tourists than before, as pricey as ever, and way up percentage wise in business over last year.
I can’t imagine where those stories came from. Certainly not from walking the streets of Mykonos at night, talking to hotel, restaurant, bar, taverna, and shop owners, or hanging out in local cafes for morning coffee and listening to local businessmen asking each other, “So, when do you think the season will start?”
If you’re a tourist on Mykonos the current situation is delightful, May crowds and July weather. If you make your living off of the island’s tourism it’s a cause for serious concern. And if you’re tied to the image of Mykonos as a red-hot place for investment, it’s a veritable nightmare.
So, who’s behind all this misinformation? For some, the answer may be obvious, but as I see it, “Who cares?” Whether it’s an effort to rewrite the consequences of a brutally mismanaged past, to lure the unsuspecting into biting at a misrepresented present, or to wishfully think a future into being, the end the result will be the same: Mykonians shall ultimately endure the consequences.
Tourists can find other venues, developers other sites, promoters other hustles, but it is the Mykonian people—not those who simply enjoy its summer season or profit off its reputation—who send their children to its schools, drive its roads, use its medical facilities and contend year-round with its chronic garbage and public service problems.
For certain, Mykonos is doing better than other places in Greece, but it is still caught up in the same financial and human crises as the rest of Greece, and a forty-five day tsunami-like deluge of tourists cannot spare it from sharing in the nation’s fate.
Those who claim all is warm, fuzzy and profitable in paradise are doing a gross disservice to the people of Mykonos if their view of Mykonos gains even subtle, subconscious traction. For example, I cannot imagine anyone living here who believes for a moment that allowing a huge, bar code-style solar panel farm to cover a virgin mountainside and destroy the breathtaking view from one of the island’s most fabled beaches (see top photo) is intended to help save the environment, any more than permitting a taverna to erect wooden decking atop natural rock formations at the entrance to the historic old harbor is meant to enhance appreciation of a tourist’s first view of the natural beauty of the scene. Yet both projects have been approved and erected!
Tourism is the lifeblood of this island and one can bleed to death from a thousand tiny cuts just as surely as from a single thrust to the heart.
Of course, the outcome of the story will be written by the Mykonian people, as is their right. None of the issues the island confronts is insurmountable by any measure if looked at and dealt with realistically with an eye toward what is best for the community as a whole—rather than for the few who strain so hard and boisterously to create reality out of smoke.