The northern Aegean islands, one of Greece’s main tourist destinations, have been pretty cheap thanks to large tax breaks. However, Greece’s creditors have decided enough is enough, and taxes for the islands will now be the same as everywhere else in the country. And who will be hit the hardest? The purveyors of local goods, says Makis Psarras, who lives on the island of Lemnos and heads the merchants association of the islands.
Psarras explained that award-winning products, including wine, were profitable due to tax exemption. Without the exemption, there’s a chance profits will decrease. Petros Hatzigeorgiou, a winery owner, has calculated that he’ll have to pay double for the wine bottle he imports. However, he remains committed and motivated, despite these obstacles. “We can’t fight this tax by protesting. We can fight by being more productive than anyone ever imagined. We can fight by changing the way we work.”
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Alexandros Alexandrou, who was born on the island, runs a gastronomy food tour there. “I’m just getting my business off the ground, and it’s of course connected to tourism. So hit us with these tax increases, fine,” he laments. “But give us time to plan for them, because we want to make enough money to keep working.”
Local pasta-maker Foteini Garali wonders if with the taxes, her business will suffer from a reputation of being too expensive. “This pasta was unknown in Greece until tourism helped our business and helped get the word out about this island…Pretty soon, people will start saying, you know, I’m not going back to Lemnos because it was just too expensive.”
The tourism industry essentially revolves around the summer months, which account for only three months of the year, according to Australian-born Matt Goodwin, who runs a Lemnos resort. So the new “value tax” could interfere with the brief amount of operable time on the island. However, Goodwin states, “We’ve made the decision not to reflect it in the prices. We will absorb it for this year, and of course that’s something we review every year.”
For what it’s worth, Lemnos seems like a lovely place, filled with boutique food and drink, and 110 glorious beaches. We won’t go into our opinion on the new taxes, but we will say we’d love to vacation on the island and support the local wine industry ourselves.