Greeks abandon vacation plans as crisis anxiety hits new heights
“Are you out of your mind? Going away for a long weekend with all that’s going on? Don’t you watch the news?” Giorgos said jokingly over the phone. The person on the other end insisted: “But we planned it! Don’t ruin it.” Giorgos, however, sounded determined: “I don’t see the long weekend happening, but we can all put in 15 euros for gas and go away for the day. That’s all I can give. It’s my ‘red line.’”
Eventually, Giorgos and his two friends from his army days agreed to go to a beach in northern Evia for a swim and a picnic. Their annual three-day, guys-only trip (without their wives and children), is off this year. “Spending the night away from Athens means paying for accommodation, breakfast and other meals. I can’t do it. I don’t know what tomorrow holds,” Giorgos told Kathimerini.
He is not alone. Although official figures have yet to emerge, the indications from the hotel industry point to local tourism becoming the latest victim of the ongoing crisis. In Halkidiki, northern Greece, as well as the broader region of Macedonia and Thrace, tourism officials say cancellations have reached up to 70 percent in some cases. This mainly concerns reservations made by Greek visitors for the latter half of July, with cancellations also spilling over into the August high season.
July is now generally considered a “lost” month for other Greek destinations as well, places which traditionally host domestic holidaymakers, such as Pelion, in central Greece, where cancellations currently exceed 50 percent of reservations. The same applies to several areas in the Peloponnese, as well as Ionian and Aegean islands which are popular with Greek travelers.
Tourism industry professionals are maintaining a wait-and-see stance. Even worse than the cancellations, they say, is the lack of new reservations. In some cases, people are asking for their down payments to be returned.
The conference tourism industry has also been affected. At least two corporate events organized by Greek companies in Athens have been canceled so far.
Meanwhile, Tzeni had planned to go away on vacation in mid-July. The departure date on her ferry ticket is marked Saturday, July 11, and the destination is Icaria. “I decided to leave earlier this year to make things easier for my colleagues, most of whom ask for leave in August,” she said. “But how can I possibly leave with the country hanging in midair? Is this a good time to spend money? More importantly, I don’t want to leave everything behind. I can’t be living in my own world. A vacation is that last thing on my mind right now.”
A walk around popular spots in the capital also provides a good indication of the situation. “Take Kolonaki, for instance,” noted Athina, who owns a store in the area. “In previous years you could easily find a parking spot at this time of year. Now it’s impossible. Everyone’s in town.”
Katerina and Christos had been planning this year’s vacation for the last two years. They organized a three-week trip to Thailand at a cost of 2,000 euros each. The tickets have already been paid online while their accommodation has been booked. Thankfully, the departure date is in early August. “For the time being we keep looking at each other, unable to decide what to do. I have a feeling we will end up staying in Greece and, hopefully, in Europe,” said Katerina.