Anti-Austerity Riots Curb Tourist Visits To Athens

Despite Greece's economic crisis, tourist visits have actually increased by 10 percent this year. That's due in large part to continued unrest in Egypt and other parts of North Africa. But Athens is not feeling the love. Reports of anti-austerity riots outside Parliament and rising crime in the Greek capital are scaring tourists and investors away.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

The dire state of Greece's economy has been in the news lately, but tourism to that country is actually up - 10 percent this year. However, tourists are heading to the islands and avoiding the capital, Athens, as Joanna Kakissis reports.

JOANNA KAKISSIS: Tourism officials had hoped to turn the Greek capital into a destination that combined its ancient past with a modern European future.

(Soundbite of music)

KAKISSIS: This promotional video shows images of the Parthenon, the new Acropolis Museum and several happy tourists, like this American woman.

Unidentified Woman: It is the center of the world, its the center of democracy, civilization and if it began here, we need to know it.

KAKISSIS: But the numbers show that fewer people want that experience. Athens tourism leaders say the number of visitors to the city has dropped between 10 and 20 percent this year. Hotel owners also report a 57 percent drop in occupancy since 2008.

Christina Deligianni works in communications for a big hotel chain. She says the bad publicity is also scaring away investors.

Ms. CHRISTINA DELIGIANNI (Tourism official): We had a visit from investors a couple of weeks ago in Athens and even though we were far away from the center they were receiving messages and emails from their families in the U.S. and from other countries saying, are you safe?

KAKISSIS: Australia even issued a travel advisory for Athens. Deligianni and other tourism officials say that more bad news could devastate one of the only healthy sectors in this economically troubled nation.

For NPR News, Im Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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