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Greek Cabbies Suspend Strikes, Bookings Canceled

Some 20 percent of bookings to Greece were canceled for the mid August-October period during the three-week strike of Greek taxi owners and drivers, press reports said last month.

Tourism professionals stressed the taxi strike cost Greek tourism 250,000-300,000 bookings and would prevent potential tourists from visiting the country next year.

Greek taxi owners and drivers began their strike in mid-July against a government decision to open the taxi sector and lift all restrictions on the number of licenses issued.

The taxi drivers claim that if their profession is deregulated then the sector would be led to saturation and then they would be driven out of business. They demand for limits to apply on the number of licenses issued based on the population of each Greek city.

The strike mobilizations included taxi drivers blocking roads leading to airports and ports, resulting to tourists having to walk in the heat with their luggage and almost missing flight and ship connections.

Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos had appealed in late July to Greek taxi drivers to not “turn tourism into a battlefield” and underlined that their strike mobilizations were endangering the tourism sector.

The Greek taxi drivers even resulted to blocking tourist coaches from exiting the Piraeus Port-while cruise passengers were onboard—after a meeting with Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis failed to reach a common line.

In an announcement, the Greek Government said the opening of the sector would proceed as planned.

However, the taxi drivers’ strike was suspended on 5 August after Attica Governor Yiannis Sgouros promised the taxi owner’s union that new licenses would not be approved until the end of August when the transport minister would submit the liberalization bill. Since the government’s announcement that the taxi sector would open and until mid-August, some 8,500 applications for new licenses had been filed.

According to reports, due to the Piraeus Port blockade during the first week of the taxi strike, more than 1.2 billion euros in revenue was lost as cruise ships canceled tours and docked at alternate ports such as Nafplion and Chania, Crete.

Meanwhile, further tension sparked from the taxi driver’s side when the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) had a meeting with Transport Minister Mr. Ragousis.

When speaking to the press, the head of the taxi owner’s union, Thymios Lyberopoulos, denounced SETE’s involvement and said the government was “playing the game” in favor of hoteliers.

Press reports concluded that taxi drivers were also against the opening of their sector as hoteliers would then be able to rent cars with drivers and undertake the transport of tourists, which up until now is a privilege exclusively of taxi drivers.

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