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Rich Tourists Get Private Closed-Off Acropolis Tours: 5,000 Euros Each

ATHENS – If you can fork over 5,000 euros ($5330) Greece is offering private tours of the otherwise mobbed Acropolis and Parthenon, limited to four groups up to five people escorted by expert archaeologists, while those who can’t afford it will have to wait outside.

To further cater to the rich – Greece is going all-out trying to attract the wealthy to 5-Star hotels and luxury resorts taking over public beaches – the private tours will be given before and after the usual closing hours.

The tours will be from 7-9 a.m. and 8-10 p.m, which are better times to avoid the often scorching heat on the baked rocks where there’s no trees, but it means pushing back the general opening time by an hour.

The plan has been ripped by critics who said it’s the antithesis of what the birthplace of democracy represents, especially the Acropolis, but the New Democracy government said it was acting after the site drew more than 22,000 people a day in the summer of 2023. “It’s plain elitist,” Costas Zambas who headed restoration works at the Acropolis for more than 25 years told the British newspaper The Guardian. “The very notion goes against the spirit of a place that we associate with democracy. It doesn’t sit well,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/apr/15/anger-greek-plan-5000-private-tours-acropolis

But  Nikoleta Valakou, President of the Hellenic Organization of Cultural Resources Development, a state body connected to the Culture Ministry, told the paper that, “We’ve had requests from tour operators for this for a very long time.”

She said those who don’t want anybody else with them and want an exclusively private tour will get it, provided they pay 25,000 euros ($26,649,) a drop in the bucket for the uber-rich, no word on whether higher prices would be set for the super-rich.

They’ll get more than just a walk around the rocks and information about the Parthenon, said Valakou. “There’ll be souvenirs too,” added Valakou. “A replica of a coin, perhaps, or copy of a small statue … something to conjure memories of the unique experience.”

The plan is part of a scheme to overhaul ticketing policy at more than 350 archaeological sites that are a big draw for tourists, but it has brought complaints that the government if offering the Acropolis for rent.

A REAL HOT SPOT

“The next thing you know people will be making marriage proposals and drinking champagne up there,” Despina Koutsoumba, Vice-President of the country’s archaeologists’ association told the paper’s Helena Smith. “They’ll feel entitled, if they’ve spent that sort of money, to do whatever they want at the site.”

She said it was “unacceptably exclusive” and goes against all that the Acropolis stands for.

“What this says is Greece is willing to give people who have money the ability to enjoy the Acropolis in a very exclusive way while leaving out those who simply don’t have such means. We’re utterly opposed to it,” Koutsoumba added.

World leaders, royalty and some celebrities have been given private tours and the government has allowed some films to use the Acropolis as a shooting site after long prohibiting that but now reaching out for movie producers too.

“If they push back opening hours to 9am because of these private tours it’s going to be a disaster,” said Kriton Piperas, who until recently was the head of the 4,000-strong Panhellenic Federation of Tourist Guides.

“For several years our union has been pressing for the Acropolis to open earlier precisely because of the changing weather. Don’t forget with the lack of shade it’s that much hotter up there,” he said.

Piperas said the government sees culture as a means to raise money without any consideration for anything else – the Culture Ministry had already paved over part of the Acropolis for tourists and those in wheelchairs.

“They look at the Acropolis and anything associated with tourism as a product,” he said. “This idea of unique tours is like putting a price tag on the site, it reminds me of an auction where the highest bidder wins and is told ‘you can have it all to yourself’. It’s wrong and bound to lead to trouble,” he said.

Valakou said that the private tours, while inconveniencing those who would have to wait, could bring in as much as 40,000 euros ($42,638) a day, revenues that would go to help support other cultural projects.

“I’ve heard from dozens of friends who’ve expressed interest in joining these bespoke tours,” said Peter Poulos, Executive Director of The Hellenic Initiative, a global Greek diaspora philanthropic organization.

“Why not relieve people of their money if it’s going to help protect and preserve our cultural monuments for generations to come? We all support the loftiest of ideals but at the end of the day ideals aren’t going to pay the hard costs needed to run a site of this magnitude,” he said.

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