From tourism to turmoil

Early November is typically a tranquil time on Lesbos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea with some 80,000 year-round inhabitants. Residents shut the doors of their hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that predominantly serve the summer tourism market and head out to their olive groves for the annual harvest.

This year, though, there are “no vacancy” signs in English and Arabic posted on hotel doors in the main port of Mytilene and lines snaking outside travel agencies. The latter are doing a brisk business not in holiday excursions, but in ferry tickets to Athens, the next stop for the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who have landed on the island this year en route to mainland Europe.

“It’s usually very quiet in winter, but a lot of businesses are still working even now, restaurants, mini-markets, car-rental agencies, so there’s a bit more life in the villages,” says Lesbos resident Aphrodite Vati Mariola. The beachfront hotel her family has operated since 1989 is not among them, however – they closed two weeks early after bookings went stagnant in early September, when both refugee arrivals and media coverage of the crisis increased....

Conflict in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other country is taking a devastating toll on human life and driving millions of people to leave their homes. This refugee flow is also having an impact economically and socially as in nearby countries such as Greece and Turkey as they struggle to cope with the influx. Late last month, I traveled to Lesbos to volunteer and bring back information about the conditions for refugees on this "hotspot" Greek island. I was also asked by the travel website Skift to write about how the refugee crisis is impacting the economy of this once-popular tourism destination.

Read the rest of my article, "Greek Islands Known for Tourism Continue to Feel Impact of Refugee Crisis," on Skift's website.