ECONOMY

Tourists avoid migrant hotspots

tourists-avoid-migrant-hotspots

The flipside to the drop in tourism bookings for the islands of the Eastern Aegean, struck by the endless waves of migrants, is the rise in bookings for destinations in continental Greece and the Ionian Sea, according to officials in those areas.

They express optimism for the course of this tourism season unless refugees and migrants start arriving in their areas, while bookings from Russia are showing a healthy rebound after last year’s massive decline.

Spyros Lagonikakos, the president of Messinia hoteliers in southwestern Peloponnese, reported a shift in interest for bookings from the islands that suffer from migrant flows to other resorts to the west of the country. This, combined with the increase in international flights to Kalamata airport, point to Messinia as being among the year’s winners.

The deputy head of the Ionian Islands’ Regional Authority, responsible for tourism, Spyros Galiatsatos, says the annual rise in bookings for the cluster that includes Corfu, Cephalonia and Zakynthos is at a double-digit level. He also cites the promotion of the destination on international media among the reasons for that growth.

The president of the Hoteliers Association of Iraklio, on Crete, Nikos Halkiadakis, reports that bookings are on the same level as last year, with the German market posting an increase, while the Dutch and Austrian markets are showing a 25 percent fall. He makes no secret of his concern for the effects on Cretan tourism should rumors about the transfer of some 15,000 migrants to the island prove true. His counterpart in nearby Hania, Manolis Yiannoulis, adds that had the migration issue been handled better in Greece, bookings for Crete would have shown a considerable rise this year compared to 2015.

Meanwhile, bookings from Russia through the Mouzenidis Group have so far shown a 25-30 percent increase from last year, the group chosen by one in three Russian tourists to Greece announced in Moscow on Wednesday.