The heads of Abta and Aito have written to the Greek Prime Minister setting out in stark terms that operators will have to cut capacity or risk going out of business if they do not get help promoting the country.
The letter, dated March 16, pleads with the Greek government to circumvent the “normal monumental government bureaucracy” to act quickly and “match euro for euro” the amount tour operators are prepared to invest in promoting Greece this summer.
It says if action is not taken within weeks to revitalise demand for Greek holidays tour operators will have to slash capacity to the country or risk their existence.
It demands “immediate action” adding if it is not taken “flight and accommodation capacity will be cancelled by UK tour operators because they are currently simply unable to sell the normal volume of holidays to Greece”.
It adds: “They [operators] will risk their own continued existence if they don’t take such difficult steps speedily.”
The open letter, signed by Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer and Aito chairman Derek Moore, says it represents the views of three organisations, Abta, Aito and the FTO, incorporating 844 tour operators and 3,547 travel agents.
It is addressed to Lucas Papademos, the Greek prime minister, his finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, the minister of culture and tourism Pavlos Yeroulanous and “respective members of the Troika”, the Greek parliament.
The tone of the letter reflects a recent complaint by Moore about the way Greece is being portrayed in the UK by the government and the foreign secretary William Hague as a “war zone” as it experiences civil unrest over its austerity programme.
The letter says: “Tourism represents 18% of the country's gross national product and, as the country’s biggest export, tourism is the key sector of the economy which will be responsible for breaking the downward spiral.
“However, as a result of the constant negative publicity focused on Greece (which consumers see as not just Athens but the islands too), consumers in the UK are choosing alternative destinations in which to holiday in 2012. Such a large decline in visitors from a major market will further damage recovery of the Greek economy.
“Action must be taken immediately – and, when we say immediately, we mean in the next few weeks - to unlock funds for the promotion of Greece in the United Kingdom.
“We ask that the normal, monumental bureaucracy which surrounds Greek Governmental procedures is circumvented in this instance so that a positive promotional campaign, pointing out that Greece is safe and that it has so much to offer the holidaymaker, can commence immediately.”
The letter states that it is “also vital” that Greece appoints a public relations agency in the UK to combat the negative images in the media.
The letter signs off: “Greece needs positive promotion now and not in three months’ time, when it will be too late.”
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