Cheap holidays becoming a dream

Holidays have become something of a luxury for Greeks. The average income for a family (of two wage-earners) comes to 2,100-2,700 euros per month, but the cheapest holiday package for a four-member family costs 1,000 euros for a seven-day break. The average income for a retired couple is just 825-1,100 euros. Of those who resort to taking out holiday loans, 18 percent are over 55 years of age and 11 percent are pensioners. More and more people, meanwhile, are having to give up their holidays. Cheap vacations – for those who do not have their own holiday home – can only be had through travel agencies. For 120-350 euros, a person can book transport and accommodation in first- or second-class hotels in Rhodes, while 200 euros buys an eight-day stay per person in Hania, the Samaria Gorge and Elafonissos. Owners of hotels and other accommodation have definitely reduced their prices, even to below last year’s in some cases, due to the continuing decline in the number of arrivals – both from within Greece and abroad. A typical example is that of rooms for rent on the island of Kos, where average prices for a 30-square-meter apartment were 40-50 euros per day last year. This year, prices have fallen to 25-35 euros. Last year the average price for a double room in a hotel at high season ranged from 70-100 euros, this year it has fallen to 50-80 euros. The president of the Kos’s association of rented accommodation owners A. Kontoveros told Kathimerini that the only hope for the future was if the tourist season was stretched out over the whole year. «We have given the Aegean Minister a study on the development of fishing tourism and are waiting for a reply soon,» he said. At present, the system of all-inclusive holidays used by major hotels has led to unfair competition for smaller hotels and means a slow death for local trade, according to the head of the Kos Hoteliers’ Union, N. Pouliou. After years of glory, the island is in decline due to a series of wrong moves. As prices continue to fall, Greece is still one of the most expensive destinations, mainly for low-budget tourists. Accommodation in third-class hotels in Greece is on average 66 euros per night, similar to that in Belgium, Ireland and Italy, as compared to 59 euros in France, Germany, Portugal and Spain. The cost for the middle-income brackets (in second-class hotels) is lower than that in all the above countries – 74 euros, comparable to Croatia, and considerably cheaper than the average 132 euros in Belgium, 103 in Italy and Ireland, and 125 in Portugal. First-class accommodation is also reasonable: 213 euros compared to 265 in Belgium, Ireland and Italy. Food prices are considered reasonably moderate. So one could say that holidays are «cheap for the rich and expensive for the poor.» Meanwhile, the former are put off by what are often low standards of service, «Third World» surroundings and a landscape that has often been spoiled. «This year, the countryside will suffer, as there has been no attempt to advertise tourism outside Athens,» said the head of the Corfu Hoteliers’ Association P. Bramos. Cases of profiteering among accommodation owners in Attica, with price rises reaching 300 percent according to some charges, appear to have frightened tourists away. «The Olympic Games, high prices and poor organization have harmed tourism,» said S. Polykratis, president of the Greek Confederation of Rented Rooms and Apartment Owners (SEEDDE). «The rumor is being spread abroad that the Games have led to price rises in Greece. Foreign travel agencies have canceled lots of bookings and are not signing contracts for next year.» According to the head of the accommodation owners’ association in Halkidiki, G. Psaropoulos, there are fears that people in Attica will not go on holiday because of the Games. «That is important for us, as it is usually Greeks who prefer this type of accommodation,» he said. Many Greeks are resorting to loans in order to go away on holiday. A representative of Piraeus Bank told Kathimerini that between the summers of 2002 and 2003, the amount granted for holiday loans rose by 40 percent and is still rising. According to the Bank of Greece, between June and September, the increase in personal loans rose in June last year by 4.6 percent compared to the same month the previous year, and by 17 percent for September. These loans were sought mainly by people working in the private sector (30 percent) and the self-employed (22 percent). Another 19 percent were civil servants, 11 percent housewives and 11 percent pensioners. Nearly a third were aged 35-44, 25 percent aged 25-34, another 25 percent aged 45-54 and 18 percent were over 55.