Agents apply novel ways to attract holidaymakers

Travel agents and online booking agencies are trying to boost Greeks? interest for holiday packages by introducing special offers and discounts, even as the summer season has entered its last month.

The financial crisis has seen bookings suffer considerably in the local market. Civil Aviation Authority data have shown a 7.2 percent annual drop in arrivals by air from abroad in the year?s first half, while in June alone the decline amounted to 9.7 percent.

Most offers that travel agencies are advertising are for four- and five-star hotels and concern all-inclusive packages, which are being extensively promoted in the local market. Besides free meals and drinks at specific times, some packages also include other free amenities or activities such as cinema tickets, wine tasting, gym access, pastimes for children, etc.

The majority of offers include a free stay for one child, while in some cases two children can stay for free depending on their age. Early booking secures holidaymakers a discount of up to 20 percent on their packages.

A novel way of attracting customers at online booking sites is the offer of a cash stipend per room that can be used by tourists to purchase services within the hotel. Other packages offer free nights? accommodation after a specific amount of nights spent in a hotel: Some hotels offer one night for free after six, while others offer two free nights after just five.

Cruise companies are also actively engaging in special offers. Following the lifting of restrictions to circular cruises within Greece by non-EU companies, one foreign company is offering new packages with Iraklio on Crete or Rhodes as the home port and visits to various Greek and foreign destinations. Another company has created a package that includes a live show on board featuring a well-known Greek singer.

The competition is also fierce among agencies offering online travel services and Internet sites selling discount vouchers, which have made a dynamic entry into tourism sales.

Research conducted by Kathimerini using data from popular booking websites showed that for the August 6-10 period the cheapest prices available for double rooms in three-star hotels for four nights average as follows: In the Ionian Sea, package prices start at 116 euros on Corfu, 140 euros on Zakynthos and Cephalonia, and 240 euros on Lefkada.

In the Cyclades, prices start at 200 euros on Paros and 204 euros on Naxos, on Santorini they start from 214 euros and on Myconos the package costs no less than 495 euros.

In the Dodecannese, the package costs 180 euros on Rhodes, 200 euros on Kalymnos and 236 euros on Kos.

In northeastern Aegean, packages start from 116 euros on Lesvos, 156 euros on Samothraki and 220 euros on Thassos.

Finally, on Crete, the package of four nights in a double room at a three-star hotel next week starts from just 92 euros in Iraklio, 120 euros in Lassithi, 140 euros in Hania and 156 euros in Rethymno.