Holiday sales hit by the economic uncertainty in Greece could pick up in the autumn but will not recover to last year’s trading levels , tour operators have warned.
Greek specialists at this year’s joint Aito operators and agents conference in Madeira said they were pinning their hopes on a late summer or autumn recovery in booking levels.
Opinions were expressed ahead of the result of the re-run of the Greek elections in which support for pro-bail out parties boosted hopes that the Euro would survive the crisis and was not facing an immediate meltdown.
Speakers and delegates at the annual overseas conference admitted holidaymakers were holding back from booking as they waited to hear the outcome of the elections held in the country yesterday (Sunday, June 17).
Sunvil Holidays cut capacity on around five flights to Greece in May as a result of a downturn in demand but plans to reinstate this capacity in the autumn.
Operations director Chris Wright said sales had rallied since the “phones went silent” earlier in the year in direct response to comments reported in the media by foreign secretary William Hague on the situation in Greece.
He added: “The elections have upset things more with talk of cash points being closed and civil unrest. Bookings are up and down but haven’t dropped off a cliff although holidaymakers are waiting to see the election result before they book. Those Brits that are travelling are price conscious.
“At the moment we just want a decision one way or the other (on the elections). We are quite confident September and October will be busy and we can push some of the capacity we cut in May when demand returns.”
But he conceded the company was likely to end the year 10% to 15% down for sales to Greece.
Prestige Holidays, which offers Crete, said Greece sales had been hit hard by the economic uncertainty.
Marketing manager Nicky Shafe said: “We are still getting bookings but nowhere near the same levels as last year. It will probably carry on for the rest of the summer but there may be an opportunity for sales to return in late summer after the football championships and the London Olympics.”
Cyprus was also suffering, she added. “People are nervous,” said Shafe. “It’s a shame because we have some fantastic offers and we are promoting it heavily.”
Classic Collection Holidays reported sales to Crete were 30% down and Rhodes 50% down, although overall the operator forecasts it will finish the year 5% up.
Head of marketing Vanda Bauer said: “A lot of people have put off making a decision and I think sales for Greece will come in even later than normal but it will depend on the news coverage.”
Kirker Holidays sales director Ted Wake maintained Greece sales to the top-end market were “holding steady” despite the current uncertainty. “I think our Greece sales will end up level with last year,” he added.
Conference delegates were told it was unlikely the Eurozone would be broken up as a result of the current problems, although it could result in a two-tier structure, according to investment director Julian Hall, of financial services group Best Invest.
He said: “The Eurozone is in turmoil but it doesn’t necessarily mean there is going to be a break up. History shows us that not many currency unions have failed. If Greece went out of the euro it would make currency more attractive as a tourist destination but suddenly its debt would become more expensive and it becomes untenable. We could see the eurozone take a different form.”
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