With reports that UK holiday-makers are shunning travel to Greece, Responsible Travel criticises UK Government advice and sensationalist media headlines for discouraging travel, releasing its own version of Foreign Office travel advice which encourages tourists to visit Greece responsibly.
Responsible Travel believes that now is the time to show solidarity with Greece, a country where tourism makes up 18% of GDP and where 19% of the labour force is involved directly or indirectly in the industry. It appears that the company’s customers are in agreement, with data from bookings through the Responsible Travel website showing that Greece has not dropped from its position as the site’s 8th best-selling destination.
The company objects to the tone of the Government advice, which focuses solely on the potential problems for holiday-makers without any balancing argument that Greece needs the support of UK tourists. Last week, George Osborne said “As the economic crisis in Greece persists, there are greater risks of shortages. In recent days, the media have reported a shortage of medical supplies in Greece”; before urging UK travellers to take sufficient supplies with them for the duration of their trip. While this follows current FCO advice, his words serve mainly as a deterrent to travel, and he offers no comment on the key economic input made by the 2 million British tourists who visit Greece each year.
Managing director of Responsible Travel, Justin Francis comments: “One of the best things we can do to support Greek people is to continue to travel to the country, however the tone of the messaging and advice from the UK government, and subsequently the mass media, completely contradicts this.
“The government of course has a duty to advise its citizens, but the information is given out-of-context, deterring travellers with little thought given to the negative impact on the Greek tourism industry. Although we are not being told explicitly to not visit, the messages being sent to the UK public is clear – a trip to Greece will be more trouble than it’s worth.
“Tourists couldn’t be more welcome than they are now – the Greek people need them to keep travelling – and it’s this which underpins our travel advice, alongside the practical tips and considerations as put forward by the FCO, and by our members on the ground in Greece.”
Christos Panagiotopoulos, General Director of Responsible Travel member, Arkas Travel which is based in the Pelopponese comments “We never heard of any incident with tourists, or any problems with supplies. In contrast I would say that during this time, we the Greeks understand that we need tourism more than ever. Tourism is the strongest column of our economy and we do our best to support it.”
Key points from Responsible Travel’s alternative advice to tourists include:
• Many of the images in circulation of empty supermarket shelves and queues for banks have been taken out of context, and those that are true are concentrated largely in Athens, well away from the more popular tourist areas.
• Credit and debit cards are likely to work, but travellers are encouraged to carry enough cash on them. Not only for their own sake – ATM restrictions are in place for those with Greek bank cards, so paying cash for goods and services is a useful way to give Greek people more ready access to cash.
• It is peak season, and the only time of year that most businesses are able to really make any income. A sudden drop in visitors could be disastrous for many small Greek businesses – and the families that depend on these.
• Staying in locally-owned accommodations, eating in local restaurants and shopping in local markets means tourists’ money reaches those who need it most. And this is even easier in Greece, with just 6 percent of its hotels belonging to international brands – less than half the EU average.
• You’re unlikely to get caught up in any protests or demonstrations unless you make a point of hanging out in Athens’ Syntagma Square, and if concerned it’s worth remembering that the threat of political violence in London is currently rated as ‘severe’ by the UK government.