An Athens court recently ruled in favor of an injunction brought by the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agents against the Media & Travel Group, which distributes Travel Card, advertised as offering discount accommodation in over 300 hotels throughout Greece. The injunction forbids any form of advertising of Travel Card if this does not bear clear indications of its expiry date and the fact that it is not a credit but a discount card for specific establishments.
Advertising is also forbidden, with claims that Travel Card offers “accommodation at the price of a breakfast” and if information on the fine print is not made available to prospective buyers. Consumer organizations had also expressed complaints about Travel Card, which is sold at kiosks for 50 euros.
Separately, the association’s president, Yiannis Evangelou, says that booking early and negotiating prices seems more apt for those planning vacations this year than any other time. He says the rather dim outlook, with a fall in bookings this season, has created favorable ground for negotiations with hoteliers and providers of accommodation.
The economic downturn in Europe, combined with the negative psychology created by SARS outbreak, has kept foreign bookings down, making tourism entrepreneurs hope that Greeks will make up for the shortfall.
Nevertheless, August remains part of the high season, and other months provide better value for money. The size of discounts may depend on the duration of stay and often takes the form of free accommodation for children.
It goes without saying that those opting for holiday packages have to be inquisitive beforehand about what exactly the package contains if they are to avoid unpleasant surprises. Mr.Evangelou says the role of travel agents is to function also as travel consultants, protecting the consumer by supplying all relevant information.
After the failure in December of Manos Travel -once a leader in the industry- which left dozens of package tour travelers stranded, Mr. Evangelou proposed the setting up by travel agents of an agency to issue permits, provide insurance cover and guarantees and monitor quality of services. He said the agency would help the industry prevent unfair competition and safeguard travelers.
For the time being, Mr. Evangelou advises travelers to always ensure that travel agents and other service providers possess the special accreditation of the Greek National Tourism Organization.
During this year’s Tourism Panorama exhibition in Piraeus we found a few examples of what is available in the marketplace. ANEK and Minoan Lines offer a 30 percent discount to round-trip fares between Greece and Italy, and 10 percent discounts for families and people aged over 60 for certain categories of cabins. They also offer one free journey for every five within Greece, and a number of other discounts. ANEK Lines, in collaboration with the Hoteliers’ Association in Rethymnon, Crete, offers a 20 percent discount on fares (including cars) for round trips between Piraeus and Rethymnon until October 31, 2003, provided they produce a confirmed booking in any of the 73 member hotels of the association.
Royal Olympic Cruises also had a number of offers: an 11-day cruise, named “Baltic,” out of Amsterdam, starting June 2, costs 535 euros per person, with children under 16 traveling free.
The Holiday Accommodation Association of the island of Astypalaia offers seven overnight stays for two in May and October for prices starting at 110 euros for rooms and 140 euros for studios, in June and September for 140 and 160 euros respectively, and in July and August for 210 and 245 euros respectively.