The influx of refugees and migrants has resulted in a decline in international tourist arrivals, the cancellation of bookings as far ahead as next season, hotel staff cuts, price reductions on signed contracts and the cancellation of flights, conferences and even cruise ship visits to the islands of the eastern Aegean, experts warn, putting the onus on the handling of the crisis by the SYRIZA government.
Kos alone, whose airport receives over 1 million foreign holidaymakers per annum, has seen cancellations exceed 170,000 this year, both by tour operators and independent travelers. This corresponds to a revenue drop of 7 million euros for local hotels and much more for the rest of the island’s economy.
The above figures are included in a letter sent by the Kos Hoteliers Association to caretaker Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis and Economy and Tourism Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. The association added that Kos has not seen such a steep rise in cancellations since data started being collected in 1980.
The association also stressed that many hotels will be forced to close between one and three weeks earlier than originally planned, and that in the September-October period the number of jobs in the tourism sector of Kos will shrink by at least 30 percent from the same period in 2014. It also cited the cancellation of flights from Israel and Italy, as well as cruise ship visits and conferences, in addition to a reduction to the rate of bookings by up to 60 percent.
Furthermore, bookings from the British market for next season have dropped by 60 percent, while there have already been 1,650 cancellations for next year at one luxury hotel unit alone.
The Kos hoteliers are asking the two ministers to take steps to help the island’s tourism, including granting an extension on reduced value-added tax rates until 2017 at the earliest.
The president of the Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers, Yiannis Retsos, is also ringing the alarm bells, saying that unless the problem is tackled, the islands on Greece’s sea border with Turkey may see tourism collapse completely. He adds that there is a risk of this problem spilling over to other destinations in the country, too.
For his part, the president of the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Andreas Andreadis, is stressing that despite efforts by Marketing Greece to promote the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Kos, among others, to potential visitors, the flow of refugees and migrants is threatening those destinations with economic ruin.