Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Greece’s Tourism Woes Continue As Tour Operators Slash Prices

Amid speculation about a Greek euro exit and fears of ensuing social unrest, tourism officials worry that Greece could have a terrible summer season this year.

A repeat election on June 17 will likely determine whether Greece retains the common currency or returns to the drachma. The gloomy forecast has travel agents across the world offering discounted fares to try and convince travelers to visit the sun-soaked Greek Isles and historic monuments.

Agents in the UK and Germany, in particular, have offered steep discounts to help kick-start slumping demand as the economic crisis hits travel spending across Europe. Residents of the two nations account for a large percentage of Greece's visitors, but reports of anti-German sentiment and the fear of being stranded amid protests has left several would-be visitors leery. Many of the 2.2 million Germans who holidayed in Greece last year appear to be headed for other destinations this year such as Spain or Turkey.

London-based Olympic Holidays, a major seller of Greek package holidays in the UK, reduced its rates by up to 25 percent for peak season travel. Meanwhile, online hotel prices in Greece show an 8 percent decline this month compared with June 2011, according to, with rates in Athens down by 22 percent over last year. Overall hotel rates in Greece average 100 euros for a twin room, considerably lower than most other European nations.

"The immediate result is the devaluation of our country in the international tourism market," the head of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies, Giorgos Telonis, told Athens-based "We are all feeling the impact on the tourism industry and the Greek economy and society."

Rick Steves, the popular European guidebook writer and television host, said tours in the country have been "as smooth and fun as ever -- virtually unaffected by the local political and economic events."

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