Photo: Vassilis Vafidis
Tourism - one of the main drivers of the Greek economy has been seriously affected by the ongoing political uncertainty. According to hoteliers and travel agencies, they have lost 600,000 "last minute" bookings in the last ten days due to the poor image of Greece abroad and the scenarios for the country’s exit from the common European currency. In particular, the reduction in the pace of bookings in the region of the Peloponnese and the islands of Corfu and Crete is about 50% and 30% for the Cycladic islands and Halkidiki peninsula. The decline in bookings in marine tourism in May is similar.
At the same time, the German tour giant TUI warned its customers who will visit Greece this summer to bring more cash in order to avoid the problems with the lack of liquidity, which could follow the eventual exit of the country from the euro zone.
The head of the department organizing the holidays in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Marcus Bruhmiller, made the recommendation on the travel agency website in response to questions from customers. He stated in it that if Greece left the euro, the new currency would not spread immediately throughout the country. Therefore, it would be better to bring more euro in cash, advised the representative of the company.
According to the text, if Greece returned to the drachma, it would devalue against the euro. Consequently, the prices of food, drinks and tickets to museums and archaeological sites would fall compared with their current values. They have fallen by about 10% compared with last year’s prices anyway.
He pointed out in his recommendations that few protests have taken place in Athens, whereas the situation in resort areas is calm and no bad attitude to Germans has been observed. Even in the event of a strike, TUI states they will be able to service their customers without any problems.
According to Marcus Bruhmiller, even if Greece leaves the euro area, the country will continue to be an attractive vacation destination. That is because the big tour operators will continue to sign contracts with their Greek partners in euro in order to avoid any risk due to cash ratios, as they do with their counterparts in Turkey and Egypt.
He reassures the German tourists that even if the country leaves the single currency, Greece will continue to be a member of the European Union and Germans will be able to travel only with their IDs without having to obtain passports.
TUI’s Italian colleagues from the tour operator Veratour have already managed to cause serious concern among Greek hoteliers. The company decided to suspend its payments to its partner hotels in Greece. The tour giant argued that its decision was based on "immediate exit from the euro area", "the decisions of the recent G8 summit," "the political instability", "the upcoming elections" and the crisis in Greece in general.
In his letter to Greek hoteliers, Veratour SpA’s head Carlo Pompili referred to the "dramatic decline in Greece’s profitability as a destination for the coming summer." He informed that he has unilaterally interrupted the contracts for exclusive cooperation, which he had signed with seven hotels. He also stated, "We will no longer be able to pay more amounts in the form of deposits, at least until the situation in the country becomes clear and stable. Unfortunately, the events in recent weeks, including the failed elections, which resulted in Greece being downgraded to CCC by credit rating agencies, have forced us to take some time and to discuss the possible future scenarios in relation to your country."
Greek hoteliers have expressed serious concerns about the events, citing reports that other Italian tour operators are preparing to make similar moves.
One of the recipients of the particular letter – the owner and manager of Kolymbia Beach Hotel in Rhodes, Doros Pierodis, said that based on unconfirmed information, the Italian government has recommended to tour operators in the country to unilaterally suspend the payments to Greek hotels.