Compensation for stranded tourists

Greece offered to compensate tourists stranded by labor unrest ahead of a new travel strike yesterday as unions stepped up their assault against government austerity cuts. Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos told a news conference that the government would «guarantee» extra room and board payments made by visitors as rail unions started a series of stoppages. «We are certain that it will be a calm summer and that there will be no major strike disruptions,» a ministry source told AFP. «But just in case something happens, the Greek state is prepared to cover these costs,» the source added. Tourism is a pillar of the Greek economy but strikes and related violence sparked by the country’s debt crisis as well as the international global crunch were estimated in May to have caused a 10 percent fall in hotel stays, according to tourism associations. The minister told the press conference late Monday that compensation would even be paid for tourists stuck in Greece during the volcano eruption in Iceland in April that blocked European air routes for several days. Geroulanos gave no details though of how much the compensation would cost nor how it would be paid. Thousands of travelers have had holidays in Greece disrupted by successive strikes as the country grapples with a debt crisis that brought draconian wage and pension cuts. As Athens labors to maximize revenue, tens of millions of euros have already been lost from booking cancellations, according to government estimates. Railway workers yesterday began a series of two-hour work stoppages to last until tomorrow, disrupting intercity trains and services to Athens International Airport. Today, Communist Party-affiliated ship crews plan to block the main Greek port of Piraeus. And the country’s main unions have called a general strike – the fifth since the start of the year – on June 29. Tourism generates about 17 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product. (AFP)