Greece among tourism winners from Egypt unrest

Greece and Spain are the two main beneficiaries of a shift by holidaymakers away from Egypt and Tunisia, according to the head of Thomas Cook, Europe?s second-largest tour operator.

The southern European countries are ?clear winners? as customers seek to avoid northern Africa amid political unrest in the region, Thomas Cook Chief Executive Officer Manny Fontenla-Novoa told Bloomberg.

Greek hoteliers have cut prices after last year?s economic contraction, while their Spanish counterparts are also offering better deals, he said.

Tourism in Greece has seen a ?real comeback, especially after all the problems there last year,? the CEO said. In Spain, the Balearic Islands, particularly Majorca, have ?benefited hugely,? he said.

Thomas Cook and larger rival TUI Travel have scrapped trips this year from some European countries to Egypt and Tunisia and brought customers home early. Egypt accounts for about seven percent of Thomas Cook?s annual profit, while Spain and Greece account for a much larger proportion.

Greece will be hoping to cover some lost ground in its tourism industry this summer after income in the sector, which accounts for about 18 percent of the economy, has been dropping in the last few years.

Data from the Bank of Greece shows that 2010 income from tourism fell seven percent to 9.6 billion euros after dipping 10.6 percent in 2009 to 10.4 billion euros.

The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) said last month that due to a lack of data it would be unable to estimate what the additional demand for the Greek tourism product will be due to unrest in the northern African countries.

Some local press reports have cited unnamed industry officials as saying that Greece could see double digit growth in arrival numbers this year.

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