The global economic crisis first hit in 2007. It grinds on grimly still, especially in the beleagured Eurozone bailout nations of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Most ordinary citizens have felt powerless in the face of its enormity: Global banks went bust, followed by whole nations. Most ordinary folk just grumbled, a few protested, but few could see a way to make any positive difference, such were the scale of events.
It's deeply refreshing therefore to see an initiative by a few London based Greek women bear fruit. They love Greece, and fear the real damage being done to the Greek tourist industry by the constant negative news-stream about their homeland. So they decided to get something done.
Inspired by a can-do grassroots American initiative that saw ordinary Greek-Americans fund billboards promoting Greece in New York and Washington, the girls from Up Greek Tourism London managed to raise the £12,000 necessary to put up a billboard in Piccadilly Circus for a fortnight. This was done through online crowd funding. Donations flowed in from ordinary Greeks all over the world.
The word "crisis" comes from Greek. Sadly, it has become almost synonymous with its country of origin in recent years. I can't remember the time I saw Greece mentioned in a headline, without seeing the word "crisis" close by. However, another word derived from Greek, is kudos, which comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "praise" or "renown". So kudos to the girls from "Up Greek Tourism" for doing something constructive in the face of a crisis so big that it has left over 50 per cent of their fellow young Greeks out of work, facing poverty or emigration.
They hope they will inspire other Greeks to step up and promote their fabulous country as a tourist destination - after all, tourism remains Greece's single biggest industry, generating some 23 per cent of Greek GDP. Worryingly, tourist numbers dropped last summer after scenes of unrest were beamed around the world - just when tourist income was more vital than ever.
It may or may not have been the Greek guy, but certainly one or other husband of Jackie Onassis said: "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." That spirit, if it spreads, might do more for Europe's beleaguered bailout nations than another 15 interminable Eurozone summits where our leaders, with no apparent answer in mind, keep on asking each other, "what can we do?"
While we're waiting for them to come up with an answer, why not book your sun holiday in Greece this year. There are worse ways to help out a nation in need of a boost.
Up Greek Tourism's website is here.
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