WTM 2015: 'Business as usual' in Kos despite migrant crisis

WTM 2015: 'Business as usual' in Kos despite migrant crisis

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The migrant crisis in Kos has been largely resolved and should not deter UK visitors from visiting the Greek island in future, according to the vice-governor of tourism for the South Aegean region.

Marietta Papavasileiou said the crisis reached its peak during the months of May to July, when up to 1,000 migrants, largely from Syria, were arriving on the island each day.

There are now between 200 and 300 migrants reaching the island's shores daily, and since August, migrants have been given the option to stay on the island for three days before being transported by boat to Athens. Between 750 to 1,000 refugees are currently travelling from Kos to Athens each day.

Papavasileiou said: "Kos was the first island many of the people came to and we needed a solution as it was very difficult to control. For a period we had 1,000 arriving each day.

"The good thing is that after a few months what we have done as a region is paid for tickets for the refugees to travel on to Athens. We provide the hospitality facilities for them for three days on Kos in a sports stadium and in hotels."

She added that despite a dip in arrivals during the key summer months, tourism numbers began to increase again in September in line with a reduction in the number of migrants on the island.

"The good thing is that Tui did not cancel flights and still believes in the destination. Sales of the destination are now more or less the same as last year, only slightly down, and we feel confident about Kos.

"The refugee crisis in a European issue, not just Kos, and we have done a good job in terms of solving the problem and we help the refugees as much as we can," she added.

There are currently around 900 Thomson and independent travel agents on a fam trip to Rhodes, which includes a trip to Kos, as part of a jointly organised trip with Tui, said Papavasileiou.

"It's important to get the message out that it's business as usual," she said.

The region, which covers 669 islands of which 50 are populated, is also attempting to extend the season for Rhodes and Santorini into the winter months by promoting the islands as destinations for culture, sport, history and festivals.

Thomson will have around 4,500 seats on flights to Rhodes this winter, said Papvasileiou, and the destination is in talks with British Airways in the hope it will increase airlift during the winter months.


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