ECONOMY

British interest in Greek package holidays soaring

Vacations in Greece are growing cheaper by the day, according to the managing director of British travel website dealchecker.co.uk, who has seen searches for Greek holidays soar by over 200 percent in the last couple of months.

Mark Attwell, head of the Internet site that specializes in online tourism services, says that besides the advantage of the strong pound, a number of tour operators have slashed their rates and are offering additional provisions such as low-cost meals, extra nights and free children?s stays.

Internationally popular destinations in Greece such as Thessaloniki, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini and Myconos are offering special reductions on all-inclusive packages and organized tours, says Attwell, although he recommends that travelers be careful when making independent bookings and use credit cards where possible for protection.

He notes that special offers to Greece have drawn major interest from visitors to the site. Searches for vacations in the country on dealchecker.co.uk have grown by 222 percent in the last two months, Attwell says, as Greek-owned tour operators have slashed their prices by up to 25 percent over the course of this summer.

However, despite the improvement in arrivals numbers on Zakynthos last month, hotels on the Ionian island are expected to see a 30 percent decline in revenues this season, according to the president of the Laganas Hoteliers? Association, Christina Tetradi, who cites the drop in prices, shorter stays and the tendency of visitors to spend less than in previous years.

Tetradi does note, though, that bookings picked up after the June 17 election, adding some 10-15 percent and going some way toward reversing the negative climate.

Arrivals from abroad at Zakynthos International Airport in June posted a 1.5 percent annual decline, with 4 percent fewer tourists coming to the island from Britain.

Tetradi comments that foreign visitors to Greece have now turned into last-minute customers. Regarding the British market in particular, which is the main source of tourists to Zakynthos, the upcoming Olympic Games are having a clear impact, with bookings being particularly slow for August.

The chief of the Laganas Hoteliers? Association adds that 2012 rates are particularly competitive given that most contracts were signed last year, when the outlook for Greece was particularly negative, fears were running high and tour operators were piling on the pressure. This year?s rates are about 10 percent below 2011 prices, Tetradi points out, although she notes that bookings to date have been made with further 10-20 percent discounts, either in early bookings or through special offers.

As far as domestic tourism is concerned, Tetradi says that it has slowed considerably, owing to the prolonged recession in Greece. She estimates that bookings from Greeks have dropped by more than 50 percent this year as many have opted to spend their vacations at home, at countryside residences, or with relatives or friends.