Will the Euro crisis affect my travel plans?
Amid rife media attention regarding Greece‘s poor economic situation, many of our customers are wondering whether now is a good time to visit Greece, and how the crisis will affect their journey. Aside from worries about riots, strikes and a return to Drachma, one of the major concerns is whether hotels and restaurants will be able to survive the downturn in tourism. These fears can be collectively categorised under ‘instability’; people are hesitant to book their holidays in a country whose future appears somewhat unpredictable.
However, we would like to prove you otherwise. There has actually never been a better time to book your holiday to Greece – prices are low, but quality remains high, the Greeks are more warm and welcoming than ever before and conversion rates benefit the UK traveller. And furthermore, not only will you be delighted to discover that your all your worries were unfounded, but visitors to Greece can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they have contributed to saving the future of one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
The figures | Numbers are certainly dropping on the tourism scale. More than 2.3 million Brits visited Greece in 2011, but it’s estimated that this year will see some 250,000 fewer British visits. According to reports, only half the normal number of Germans are visiting this year, with many fearing a negative reaction from locals. This decline particularly affects Crete, an island that depends on tourism from the old eastern bloc. The saddest figures, however, are perhaps those detailing the Greeks themselves. In general, the Greeks holiday within their own country during summertime – travelling from mainland Greece to one of the islands. Yet this year, the biggest effect for locals is the disappearance of Greek tourists, who just cannot afford to travel in the present economy.
What are the prices like? | Prices in hotels and restaurants, which were relatively low in the first place, have come down even further across the board. There has been a noticeable devaluation throughout Greece, despite that they are still in the euro. This is due to a simple equation: as wages are cut, the local population is forced to spend less, so prices come down, so business owners earn less, so they spend less etc etc…
What about the strikes? | While Greece is so dependent on tourism, there have been less and less strikes – especially now that elections are over. In fact, there have been no strikes in Athens in the past four months to date, so chances that you will be caught up in one of them, are slim to none.
Should I take cash? | Many retail outlets, restaurants and cafes are already asking for cash rather than accepting cards, particularly in the smaller islands. Another reason why cash is necessary is that some ATMs might cease to operate while there is uncertainty about the currency. Dana Facaros, author of the Cadogan Guide to the Greek Islands, warned: “It is not a problem (yet) on the big islands such as Corfu, but I can imagine you might get caught out on a small island, especially one with only one or two ATMs. Greece isn’t having a bank run, more of a slow motion bank walk.”
Which holiday should I book? | For starters, let us tell you that Greece needs you right now. One in five of the working Greek population is employed in the tourism industry, and the income this industry brings in accounts for 17% of GDP. We have some great deals on package holidays to Greece right now, ensuring that these people keep their livelihood. There is an argument that northern Greece will benefit most, and the smaller islands that are currently struggling. Why not take a ferry to beautiful and lesser known islands such as Hydra, Skiathos, Aegina or Paros? Islands with airports such as Corfu, Crete or Mykonos will always have tourists, but the north and the smaller islands will suffer most this summer.
How can I travel there more ethically? | The answer is simple: eat out every night (food is cheap and delicious so you’ll have no problems there), make sure any produce you buy is grown in Greece, not imported, enjoy a few drinks in the local bars, explore the nearby shops and purchase local crafts for souvenirs. As aforementioned – aim to travel around while you’re away, so you spread your money around a little.