Greek Travel Agents Upset Over Archaeological Sites Shutdown

FILE - Tourists take photographs with Acropolis Hill in the background during a 24-hour strike by ancient guards in Athens, Friday, March 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – The Greek travel agent federation FedHATTA said with the summer tourism season on the horizon set to bring another record number of visitors that a four-hour shutdown of archaeological sites on April 7, the day before Easter, would send the wrong message to people planning to visit the country.

The sites will be closed from 8 a.m. to noon during a day that is seen as the unofficial start to the spring tourism season in the country with expectations high and that more than 30 million people will hit the beaches, islands – and archaeological sites that occasionally are shut down by workers upset over austerity measures and other issues they don’t like.

Ironically, the country’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) initially barred the BBC from shooting a scene from a spy miniseries at the ancient Cape Sounion site south of Athens because it would have kept tourists from visiting the site.

FedHATTA said even the brief shutdown would leave outside gates looking in and cause anger, as it has before when the country’s archaeological sites were closed by strikes, none of which have worked.

In its statement, FedHATTA said the strike would cause delays and long cueues outside of museums and archaeological sites, and would irritate tourists.

“We must all see that tourists leave Greece with the best memories from their stay in our country,” reads the statement.

Museums and archaeological sites in the wider Athens area and on the Greek island of Crete closed for a day in March because of a strike by guards over a benefits dispute with the Culture Ministry.

Sites affected by the strike included Greece’s famed Acropolis in Athens, where disappointed tourists hoping to visit the Parthenon headed instead to a nearby hill to view the monument from afar. The nearby Acropolis Museum, however, remained open.

The museum guards’ union described the 24-hour work stoppage as a “warning strike,” an ominous sign more might be coming.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)