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Greek Island Professionals Fear Hotspots will Deter Tourism

Refugees on Lesvos. Photo © UNHCR/A.Zavallis

Refugees on Lesvos. Photo © UNHCR/A.Zavallis

Mytilini town, Lesvos. Photo © Koutrolm / Wikimedia Commons

Mytilini town, Lesvos. Photo © Koutrolm / Wikimedia Commons

The five Greek islands bearing the brunt of the swelling numbers of fleeing refugees from Syria and elsewhere may also have to deal with dwindling numbers of tourists, which have for decades been their primary source of revenue.

According to the latest figures by industry insiders, cruise companies are dropping the said islands from their itineraries, pre-bookings are taking a plunge and tour operators are putting package deals on the back-burner.

Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, which have seen hundreds of refugees flock to their shores while the government and the EU continue the wrangling over who will host them, have also had to face increasing taxes, high unemployment rates and capital controls. Not to mention the controversy over the creation of the so-called hotspots, or refugee registration centers.

According to data released by SETE Intelligence, the refugee crisis is affecting 40 percent of potential travelers’ view of the country.

At the same time, the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) is calling on the government to proceed immediately with the completion and ensure the smooth operation of the hotspots.

“The country’s commitment to the creation of reception centers should not mean allowing an uncontrolled influx of refugees. Organized structures must be in place in order to immediately redirect the refugees. As we approach the start of the tourism season, it is vital to ensure a positive image of our country abroad so as not to affect the flow of incoming tourism,” HATTA said in a statement.

In the meantime, tourism professionals on the islands are looking to Turkey to keep local tourism afloat.

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