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Domestic Tourism Down During Holidays

Domestic tourism showed disappointing figures during the last holiday season as Greeks considered travel an “unaffordable luxury” and preferred to stay and celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays at home, press reports said recently.

In 2011 domestic tourism dropped by 20 percent due to the economic crisis and the bail-out austerity measures passed on to the Greeks by the Government that included pay cuts, job and pension cuts and tax hikes.

Hellenic Federation of Hoteliers President Yiannis Retsos told the press last month that considering last year’s 20 percent drop in domestic tourism, he sees “little hope for 2012” in regards to Greek customers.

Greek consumers saved their Christmas 2011 bonus (the renowned 14th salary) to cover emergency needs and not to go on holiday, according to the 11th MasterCard Barometer survey conducted in Greece.

“This year eight out of 10 Greek consumers will not take a trip during the holidays, either within the country or abroad,” the survey revealed in December 2011.

According to toll stations on the main Greek highways, automobile traffic from the capital to the countryside this year was reduced by 15-20 percent compared to 2010.

High fuel costs was mentioned as one of the main reasons Greeks did not travel this holiday season.

Tourism professionals said that another reason Greeks did not travel were due to fears of being trapped in the snow after viewing images that circulated through the media of trapped cars on the snow covered Egnatia Odos highway.

Although official figures have not been released yet, the federation’s president, Yiannis Retsos, said a decrease in overnights was noticed this holiday season in hotels of traditional and non-traditional Greek holiday destinations when compared to the same period in 2010. (Tourism traffic during the 2010 holidays was reduced by 25 percent compared with 2009.)

Mr. Retsos told GTP that during the holiday season hotels in traditional holiday domestic destinations had to drop their prices to attract last-minute visitors while others did not even bother to open.

“Hotels that performed well during the holidays in regards to overnights were those located in the usual traditional destinations such as Arachova, Karpenisi and Kalavryta but they had very low income due to discounts and special offers,” he said.

The press said that the so-called “queen of the winter” Arachova reduced prices by 20 to 40 percent in order to attract 80 to 90 percent occupancy.

The federation’s president added that the weather was also a positive factor for the specific destinations since it snowed and attracted last-minute visitors.

Yiorgos Telonis, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), said that domestic and outgoing tourism were significantly influenced by Greece’s economic situation and for that reason showed low figures.

“Greeks chose where to spend their holidays with more thought and, according to our data, they chose cost-effective solutions,” he told GTP. Mr. Telonis said the majority opted for trips that cost up to 600 euros.

“Obviously we have to consider that the Greeks are last minute travelers and that holidays are not luxuries but necessities,” he said.

In regards to outgoing tourism, Mr. Telonis said there was a strong demand for Paris, Prague, Austria, Switzerland, as well as Bulgaria and Turkey.

Press reports had said that many Greeks did in fact prefer ski destination Bansko in Bulgaria over Greece this year due to the “very low prices combined with top notch services.”

According to data by the Civil Aviation Authority, domestic arrivals during the January-November 2011 period dropped 9.5 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

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