NEWS

Vacations shorter as budgets shrink

Two in four Greeks will not be going on holiday this year for economic reasons, according to a recent study. At the same time, hoteliers say the drop in tourist numbers may reach 25 percent because of the September 11 attacks and the introduction of the euro, though they hastened to add that the phenomenon was not just limited to Greece. The change to the common currency of the euro, in particular, means Greece is no longer a cheap destination, and travel agencies say that Greeks are discovering exotic islands such as Cuba, which is cheap and relatively off the beaten track. Islands still popular The Greek islands are still the most popular choice with holidaymakers, even if last year’s two-week vacation has shrunk to one, or two or three long weekends. As a result, ferry tickets cannot be had for love or money. But how accurate is the study that finds that only two in four Greeks will be going on holiday this year? The answer is not an easy one, but a quick informal check found that many Greeks will be heading for their villages, possibly a coastal resort, be it Xylokastro or Methana, Vrahati or the Mani, not on holiday, but for a «rest.» Only organized excursions in good company with rented rooms or hotels, and a taverna and bar thrown in for good measure, seem to count as holidays for today’s Greeks. That is, they want to drink and dance the night away – the same as they’d do in Athens on the weekend. Country houses Thus, for many, there will be few occasions to paint the town red. Some will head for Attic resorts, while others will remember their country houses on Salamis or the Corinthian or Evian gulf, and still more will be persuaded of the cleanliness of the Saronic Gulf, and resign themselves to not going to the Ionian or Aegean islands this year. After all, what Greeks really want from a summer holiday are the fruits of the Greek soil and sea, which are still abundant, and cheap. And a quiet time spent fishing is not only soothing but can be used to good purpose – working out where to spend next year’s holidays.