Opinion: Media hysteria has damaged Greece but little has changed

Opinion: Media hysteria has damaged Greece but little has changed

Following a bruising period, Abta chairman Noel Josephides gives his assessment of the situation in Greece and says it will continue to offer good value holidays

What has changed for tourism to Greece? Seemingly little, as the issue has been fudged again.

We went through all this in 2012, with rumours about no cash in ATMs. We have seen a repeat this year and no doubt will see a repeat again in 2018 when another bailout will be required.

Politicians don’t think long-term. If they did, they would realise Greece really needs its own currency.

In the 1980s and 90s, our prices at Sunvil never went up because, although we were given higher prices by accommodation providers, the drachma would devalue and cancel out the increase.

Our prices at Sunvil barely went up at all over a 10-year period.

Hysterical media reports

In 2012, and again this year, tourists in the country will have had no idea what was going on - everything was normal.

It is the national press that has crucified Greece with unfounded reports of the situation. Never have I read more inaccurate reports of local conditions.

Irresponsible reporting has cost jobs and ruined lives, as many visitors have been frightened into holding back on booking to the country. Bad news sells newspapers.

At the height of the hysteria, I was in Greece. All was normal, and the Greeks could not believe the stories being printed about empty supermarkets, ATMs with no money, and no fuel for aircraft. 

In Thessaloniki I asked an old lady who was drawing her €60 from an ATM if I could photograph her. I explained UK newspapers were saying there was no money in the machines.

She was a little flustered and asked that I take the photo from behind as she didn’t have make‑up on. Many older Greeks have been through much worse.

Of course the harm has been done – the peak season is upon us. Over the last month bookings have all been last-minute, at very low prices, attracting a market that is only interested in price.

Good-value holidays

So what have we to look forward to in the second half of 2015 and 2016?

Greece needs a miracle to turn the season around. At least the Greeks have not increased VAT on accommodation from July 1. I understand it will go up from 6.5% to 13%, but not until October.

Will this mean more expensive holidays in 2016? I don’t think so: operators were tied into currency deals for 2015 and have not benefited fully from the fall in the euro.

In 2016, they will take advantage of the weakening euro and be able to offset much of the VAT increase.

Accommodation providers will also do their best to absorb the rise. Greece will still offer good value for money.

After such a humiliating climb-down, I have no doubt there will be strikes, but operators are used to handling them.

Greece needs a period of rest, of being out of the news, so people can get on with their lives and lick their wounds.

Greeks will not change – they will never be like the northern Europeans.

Sooner or later politicians will come to understand and accept this and realise that the rich within the eurozone will, from time to time, have to support the poor and less efficient, in much the same way that London supports less-affluent areas in the UK.

That’s what the EU should be all about.

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