The tourism sector had best hope for a barrage of last-minute bookings if Greece’s consumers’ federation is correct in its forecasts. Four out of every 10 Greeks will not take summer holidays this year, mainly to save money, while most of those who do go away will stay in their summer homes or with friends, according to a survey made public last month by two large consumer groups.
The General Consumers’ Federation and the Consumer Institute (INKA) said only 29 percent of the people who plan to go on holiday will stay in hotels or rented rooms. Some 43 percent will use their own second homes while 28 percent will visit friends or relatives.
Out of the 40 percent that will stay at home, 72 percent said their decision was taken on financial grounds, while 18 percent cited work problems. Of those going on holiday, the survey found that 35 percent of families plan to take 10 days off, 29 percent 15 days, 23 percent one week, 8 percent 20 days and 5 percent one month.
But no matter what happens, the tourism sector is in for a difficult time. The strong euro and the SARS scare have opened a competition battle for international visitors. Greece’s competitors for last-minute bookings -Spain, Turkey, Croatia, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Cyprus- are out to pick up mass tourism arrivals, and there’s still time.
The Dutch, for example (Holland is Greece’s fourth main market for incoming travel), have yet to decide on where to vacation this summer but they have decided that they will go somewhere. And as with most of Europe, the decision will be based on the price of a tourism package.
Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourism Agents, says tour operators are pushing hard for hoteliers here to drop prices. Also, they are dropping their own profit margin in an effort to offer cheaper vacation packages.
Many are looking to countries that price in dollars so as to take advantage of the strong euro against the dollar.
Mr. Evangelou says this means many Europeans will head for Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, which price their tourism services in dollars. Already, Bulgaria and Croatia say they are overbooked for the summer period.
Mr. Evangelou adds that even Greeks that intend to travel this year will most likely head for the above-mentioned destinations. He says these countries have increased their prices but are still about 30% cheaper than Greece.