Athens-based author and journalist Marissa Tejada says Greece is ready and waiting for tourists. There’s still time to get to magical Greece this summer.
Last-minute travel to Greece
For more than forty years Harry Anapliotis’ family has run Rental Center Crete, a successful car rental business based in Heraklion. Tourism is their livelihood, and now that livelihood is changing and keeping them on edge. He said most people are booking their travel last-minute.
New tourism trends and two crises
Harry says the tourist season is starting off slow, much like last year. The situation bounced back then and he’s hoping for the same this season.
During the summer of 2015, the looming threat of a “Grexit” scenario, in which Greece was thinking of dropping out of the Eurozone to revert to its old currency, the drachma, worried tourists. In the end, Greece stayed on with the Euro, and Greece ended up with a record season.
This year, there’s another concern: the influx of migrants.
Several Aegean islands have found themselves at the center of the migrant crisis that has gripped much of Europe as families flee conflict in the Middle East and beyond. Today, there are camps in Thessaloniki, Athens and several North Aegean islands, stops in a challenging journey to reach northern Europe.
It’s a situation that Harry says should not affect anyone’s vacation in Greece.
“The migrant crisis is under control. In Crete, where we are based, we just see and hear about the migrant crisis from the news.”
Tourists need not worry
Andreas Andreadis, president of the Greek Tourism Confederation known as SETE, says just like last year — there is no cause for concern — and any issues that could crop up won’t take vacationers by surprise.
“This will be a last minute season for sure. The refugee and migrant crisis has affected the booking period, due to the fact that we had negative publicity during the beginning of the issue, but, we are optimistic that we will have another positive year.”
He is especially optimistic. At the ITB Berlin 2016 exhibition he set a target of 25 million arrivals and 15 billion euros revenue for 2016 compared to 23.5 million visitors and 14.2 billion euros last year.
“The Greek government and various local authorities are doing their best to control the situation. Both the hotspots and the relocation camps are now not affecting the tourism destinations, so there is no reason not to visit. In fact, now would be a great opportunity to visit these destinations in order to support the local communities and economy.”
As for fears by potential tourists that the situation may not be “safe…”
“We do not believe this statement.”
Andreas points to two Censuswide surveys SETE ran online during January and April 2016, for the markets of the U.K., U.S.A. and Germany; Greece remained one of the safest destinations. Furthermore, he assures that the country’s ongoing capital controls are not affecting tourists. Tourists with foreign bank accounts can use their credit and debit cards normally, to pay all their transactions and withdraw cash.
“We never had such an issue and in the past three consecutive record years. That is the best proof just how safe it is for tourists to come to Greece.”
Hope for the season
Harry’s family is taking things one day at a time.
“It’s would be a shame not to come, our country is so unique. The natural diversity is extraordinary where all elements are included from tropical islands and awarded beaches, snow-covered mountains, great forests and historical sights.”
With everything his island and his country has to offer, at this point, he hopes potential visitors will indeed come even if their plans are at the last minute.
“We hope things pick up soon. Tourism picked up right after the referendum last year. That seemed impossible then.”
What you need to know
- Greece’s capital controls only affect Greek bank accounts.
- Tourists with foreign bank accounts can use their credit and debit cards normally, to pay all their transactions and withdraw cash.
- SETE reports that there haven’t been any issues with capital controls in the past three consecutive record years.
- The areas of Greece taking in migrants report that the situation is under control, including in the North Aegean islands, closest to Turkey.
- NGOs and volunteer groups are organized at the migrant camps near Thessaloniki and Athens, which are not located in touristic areas and do not affect the operation of touristic businesses.
- Greece’s tourism related businesses from hotels, airlines, ferries, restaurants to tour companies are running as usual and serving visitors.
There’s still time!
Summer in Greece is waiting for you! There’s still plenty of time to get here. Now go book your ticket!
Follow Marissa Tejada on her blog, Travel Greece, Travel Europe; and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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