Crisis fuels pre-holiday scrimping

Owners of hotels and guesthouses at popular winter holiday destinations report a significant drop in bookings for the Christmas season, a slump experts attribute to the impact of the debt crisis. Meanwhile a survey by consumer protection group KEPKA shows that a third of Greeks are planning to spend their additional holiday salary on paying off debts. Constantinos Dafalias, who rents out rooms in Kalavryta, told Kathimerini that his bookings were down 20 percent compared to last Christmas. «People shop around before choosing their accommodation,» he said. For some guesthouse owners, the outlook is even grimmer. «At the moment, we have 60 percent of the bookings we had last year,» said Alexandros Vangelis, who runs a guesthouse in the village of Tsepelovo, in Zagorohoria, northwestern Greece. Vangelis said most of his customers this year were residents of northern Greece, noting that the high fuel prices meant few people were making long journeys by car. Also, would-be customers are haggling more than ever despite the relatively low prices, he said. Travel agencies in Athens and Thessaloniki have also seen a drop in interest, reporting a slump in revenue of up to 50 percent. Even the cheapest package tours for road trips to Balkan cities are being snubbed, said a spokesman for a travel agency in Thessaloniki. Meanwhile, a study by consumer protection group KEPKA has shown that 30.75 percent of Greeks are planning to spend their additional Christmas salary to pay off debts, up 9 percent from last year. «The mood of consumers is very negative,» said the president of KEPKA, Nikos Tsimberlidis. «Even those who have not been directly affected by the crisis are drastically reducing their spending,» he added.

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