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Is it time to cancel your Greek vacation?

Is it time to cancel your Greek vacation?

Hellenic News
Hellenic News
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(CNN)- Greece may be on the brink of striking a deal to avert short-term financial catastrophe, but with economic problems unlikely to go away, is now the time to start rethinking Greek travel plans?

The looming threat of a “Grexit” scenario, in which Greece drops out of the eurozone and reverts to its old currency, the drachma, raises questions about how millions of vacationers will be affected.

Tourist fears are likely to be stoked by advice from some quarters about taking wads of cash to ward against a fiscal meltdown.

With an expected 25 million visitors this year set to contribute up to a quarter of Greece’s income in 2015, the country wants to reassure them that their vacations are safe.

According to Andreas Andreadis, president of the Greek Tourism Confederation known as SETE, there is no cause for concern — and any issues that could crop up won’t take vacationers by surprise.

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“As summer season begins, we are prepared to ensure tourists safety and enjoyment,” he says. “Above all, I am not concerned so no one should cancel their vacation.”

Here, Greek experts offer their answers to some of the major concerns travelers are likely to face.

I’ve booked a vacation in Greece, should I cancel?

Emphatically, no, says Andreadis of SETE, who claims few people, if any, have scrapped their travel plans because of the crisis.

“There’s no reason to cancel,” he says. “Greece is beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I don’t believe there’s a risk of a strike or protest.

“In the worst case scenario banks will have capital controls but that will not affect tourists. Money will be available and credit cards will work. Greece is the best value for money this year.”

Are tourism businesses making contingency plans?

“Greeks worry about what’s happening but it’s not like it was in 2012, when things were at their worst,” says Sophia Antoniadou, co-founder of Discover Greek Culture Tours, based in Athens.

She says travel operators are not planning for emergency scenarios because there’s no fear that the fiscal crisis will have any significant visible impact on the travel industry — at least not this summer.

“As for any contingency plans, we believe that it’s too far ahead and not necessary to think about,” she adds. “Tourists will be fine here even if we leave the euro.

“We’re a civilized European nation first and foremost, with the infrastructure in place to keep tourists happy.”

Is there any danger that credit cards will no longer work?

If the latest measures to avert default pull through, then the likelihood decreases, although it could simply be delaying the inevitable.

Says Panagiotis Zarifis, a banking and investments exec based in Athens, that’s a remote possibility, but if it happens, tourists needn’t worry.

“Even in the worst case scenario, credit cards will still be widely accepted and tourists will be able to use them without any restriction.

“There will be no financial, legal or any other reason for Greek businesses not to accept credit cards issued from non-Greek financial institutions.”

Nevertheless, he advises stocking up on some cash.

“Personally, I feel more comfortable when I travel around Europe or the States to have cash on me, so a mix of credit and cash is always good, but I don’t believe cash flow will be an issue either.”

If Greece drops out of the euro, will places still accept euros?

In the “highly improbable event” that Greece returns to the drachma, Zarifis says the U.S. dollar and the euro will still be accepted.

“It’s well known that these strong currencies are always preferred by businesses, in any country, should there be any economic insecurity. “

What if capital controls are enforced?

Zarifis says any capital controls — whereby the government puts limits on money being taken in and out of the country — are unlikely, but wouldn’t apply to tourists or transactions made with foreign debit and credit cards.

Are there any safety issues? Any danger of unrest, increased crime?

Athens has witnessed several major outbreaks of unrest since its financial crisis began, but while there have been recent demonstrations, locals say any risk from turmoil is small.

“Greece is quiet and peaceful and the people are still as warm and hospitable as ever,” says Athens resident Georgina Tzevelekou.

“Of course, Greeks are worried about what may happen but that isn’t something that will affect or harm the visitors in our country.”

Tzevelekou points out that even when Athens or other mainland cities have been the focal point for protest, these have not spread to the prime vacation destinations on Greece’s islands.

“The Greek people understand very well that tourists are helping Greece and our economy,” she adds. “Furthermore, the Greek islands have always been peaceful and the atmosphere there has never been affected by what happens in the capital.”

Will the ferries still be running? Is there any risk of getting stranded?

Many Greek vacations depend on the network of ferries that connect smaller islands to airport destinations.

So will these still run if the crisis reaches breaking point?

“There’s no indication there would be such cancellations,” says Stephanie Anastasiou, who heads up Ask2Travel Group, and the Entrada Central Reservation System.

“The most important thing to remember is that tourist businesses are privately owned companies that have nothing to do with the government and the public sector.

“A business in Greece will not stop operating when there are customers to serve. Such businesses have proven to be fully operable even in more difficult times during these past crisis years.”

Are there likely to be any power cuts or food shortages?

Again, this is an unlikely scenario, says Theodore Agiostratitis, Managing Director of the upscale Margi Hotel in Athens.

He says any impact of the crisis is unlikely to result in sudden, unpredictable fluctuations in supplies and in the event of any problems, tourists, as a vital economic commodity in Greece, will be protected.

“I run a five-star luxury hotel and I am not concerned about supplies,” says Agiostratitis. “When it comes to this aspect, the tourism industry will be taken care of — as usual.

“All tourism destinations are well prepared and equipped for the summer period. Tourism is very important to Greece.

“Even if the worst happens, it is going to affect the economy and operations after a number of months not from one day to the next.”

Are prices likely to go up or down?

No one wants to find themselves on the wrong side of an exchange rate meltdown, suddenly finding prices surging midway through a vacation.

Doulis Carafil, CEO of private charter company Air Business International, says while Grexit might herald economic turbulence, foreign travelers will win out.

“Should Greece default, prices will drop even more and the tourist experience will only get better,” he says.

“This is proven by changes that have taken place as we went through the worst of the crisis over the past few years. “

Given the situation, will Greek people be happy to see tourists?

“We Greeks are famous for our hospitality and we’re proud of that,” says Yorgos Geniatakis, general manager of the Minos Imperial Luxury Beach Resort in Crete. “Of course Greek people will be happy to see tourists.

“First and foremost because it’s our culture dating back to ancient times and no political situation could affect that.

“Secondly, Greece depends on tourism, so tourists will be welcome.”

Geniatakis says visitors shouldn’t worry about packing extra euros, but should be worrying about packing media-driven anxieties.

“If tourists arrive positive they will leave positive,” he adds. “It is the time to enjoy Greece.”

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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