Tourists planning a luxury getaway to the Greek isles are being increasingly hesitant to keep their bookings, thanks to both an economic crisis plaguing the nation’s banks and the Greek government’s inability to process thousands of illegal migrants sailing into island ports from Turkey.
In order to keep revenue up, companies are offering steep discounts and encouraging tourists not to cancel trips.
Greek newspaper Kathimerini is reporting that some tourism companies are offering up to 50% off on pre-packaged holidays to Greece in attractive European markets whose consumers may be hesitant to visit the island. It notes several outrageous offers in Germany, among the healthiest of the European economies: 982 euros for an originally 2,120-euro seven-day vacation in Corfu, a 2,220-euro visit to Rhodes for 1,074 euros, and 994 euros to stay in a four-star hotel on the holiday island of Kos, originally priced at 1,982 euros.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, which notes that Turkish tourists have been among the world’s most loyal to Greece, estimates that around 50,000 tourists have canceled trips to Greece a day since June 25, when the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made clear his state would not be able to make its monthly debt installment to the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Hurriyet also spoke to cruise operators, who said they had witnessed a 60% decline in demand for voyages to Greece.
Tourism is also in decline far from the beaches in Athens. Edward Fisher, who runs a backpacking business in Athens, tells the Associated Press that he has experienced a 20-30 percent decline in bookings since the economic crisis began to make international headlines. The Daily Mail notes that a 30 percent decline in bookings appears to be the average rate for most businesses of their kind in Greece.
Turks continue to flock to the Greek islands, however, according to Greek officials. “Many Turkish people prefer the Greek islands for their vacations. They love us. The only foreign people who are not afraid of what is happening in Greece right now are Turkish people,” said Mayor Lefteris Papakalodukas of Symi Island, a popular destination among Turks due to its proximity to the Turkish mainland. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu echoed the support from Turkish tourists in a statement last week, where he said Turkey was “ready to do whatever we can in terms of cooperation in tourism, energy and trade… We want Greece to be strong.”
Papakalodukas, as well as many officials looking to keep the tourism sector of Greece’s economy relatively healthy, emphasize that foreign tourists are not subject to the bank withdrawal limits that Greeks are currently living under; they are permitted unlimited withdrawals, not just 60 euros a day. Many businesses also take debit cards, making trips to the ATM necessary less frequently. Greece is experiencing a number of scarcity issues that may affect tourists, however. Shortly after Tsipras instituted capital controls, many feared that pharmacies would quickly run out of medicine, and certain food items would be hard to find. Tourists feared not having access to vital medications while on holiday.
Tourists appear to be fleeing both the economic woes that may befall them in the troubled nation and the developing migrant situation. Thousands of refugees fleeing Islamic State terrorism in Syria and Iraq, as well as migrants from as far as Afghanistan, have taken to the Aegean Sea in an attempt to reach the EU. Most have landed on Greek holiday islands like Kos and Lesbos. On Lesbos, officials have kept immigration offices open 24 hours a day and can still only process 300-500 people a day, while more than one thousand have arrived on successive weekends. The processing gives migrants legal status in Greece for up to six months.