Going Greek this summer
The violence that has deterred tourism to Greece is hardly felt on the country’s idyllic islands, like Rhodes. (Matt Munro)
Over the last year, as Greece’s economy descended into turmoil, images of riot police, Molotov cocktails and burning buildings have been hitting the country’s tourism industry hard.
Domestic tourism is down by 20%, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, and February’s anti-German protests in Athens especially deterred northern Europeans -- who are massive spenders on overseas holidays -- from choosing the Mediterranean nation for this summer’s break.
With tourism accounting for about a fifth of the gross domestic product and January to April acting as the key booking season for summer vacations, Monday’s approval to a second, 130 billion euro bailout for Greece could not have come at a better time. Tour operators, who are targeting travellers with keen prices and tempting offers, are hoping the bailout will stabilise the economy and quell the violence.
For example, some tour operators and villa companies are offering four nights for the price of three while Aegean Airlines has some keen offers for domestic flights. Early booking prices for this summer can be at least 10% lower.
“Tourism is key to helping people through this situation,” said Noel Josephides, managing director of Sunvil Holidays, an independent tour operator. “This year you will find a Greece that is far more welcoming and appreciative of your visit.”
For the most part, the scenes of unrest have been contained in a small district of Athens, adjacent to the Greek parliament. It may be less than a mile from the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but it is a world away from the country’s idyllic, white-washed islands, like Crete, Corfu and Rhodes. In fact, anywhere outside of the capital and Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city, is largely trouble free.
The real inconvenience you’d encounter would be a public sector strike, which effected the buses, trains and ferries on a weekly basis throughout 2011. The UK Foreign Office has up-to-date travel advisories, and Athens News will often cover any news of a strike.
But the crisis hasn’t scarred the very attractions that make Greece one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world. “The sun will still shine, the waters are still crystal clear and the skies are blue, said Bernadette Askouni from Ionian and Aegean Island Holidays. “In that respect nothing much has changed.”