Greece offers bargain prices to lure tourists

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iol travel june 6 crete

AP

A visitor looks at a tank of jellyfish at an aquarium in the city of Iraklion, on the Greek island of Crete.

The ongoing instability in Greece has led many people to question whether now is a good time to book a holiday there even if prices have never been lower.

The situation in Hersonissos, on the island of Crete, is typical of that being experienced by resort towns across Greece.

It is not only the international tour operators who have dropped their prices in an effort to woo customers. Special offer signs abound as the Mediterranean town's hotels, car rental companies, shops, restaurants and bars all look to survive the economic downturn by offering bargain prices for everything from rooms to bottles of ouzo and olive oil.

Everyone involved in the Greek tourist industry is acutely aware that the pictures of protests from Athens have frightened away many potential tourists, but the ongoing euro crisis has also resulted in Greece being a more affordable holiday destination than ever before.

Much of the protesters' anger has been directed at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, resulting in television pictures going around the world of German flags being burnt on the streets of Athens.

The lower prices have failed to entice German tourists back.

“We had the feeling that we were the only Germans in the hotel,” says Andrea Hielscher, who decided to holiday in Crete.

Hoteliers such as Nikos Vlassiadis have tried to address the issue as best they can. “We know that Greece has developed a poor image as a result of the protests and we are doing our utmost to correct this,” he says.

A standard room in his four-star hotel now costs 119 euros (about R1200) instead of the usual 188 euros, a drop of almost 37 percent. It remains to be seen how successful the efforts of the local businesses on Crete to cut prices are, but at the moment the absence of tourists on the island is noticeable.

The restaurants are empty while the beaches around Hersonissos, such as Malia, are far less crowded than would normally be the case.

Manos Prinaris rents paddle boats in Malia and has been badly affected by the downturn in tourist numbers in the wake of the economic crisis.

“Everyone is afraid because of all the bad news that has been coming out of Greece,” says Prinaris, who began renting boats much later than normal this year because of the lack of tourists. “We are very friendly, really.”

Meanwhile, Angelos Kypreos, who sits in his boat in a bay further down the coast has the same story. “This season is bad, nobody has come,” says the 60-year-old captain. “Some think there is a war going on here.”

Kypreos normally charges 20 euros for a day trip on his boat but this price is now completely negotiable.

The effects of the economic crisis on life in Crete is also clear to see by the number of “for rent” signs hanging in the windows of commercial premises where businesses once thrived.

“The small businesses are all finished,” says shop owner Nikos Gonianakis.

However, visitors do not need to worry about feeling the brunt of the Greek people's anger over the economic situation in the country. In any event, most tourists spend their holiday in resorts far from events in Athens.

“Everything in our hotel is super, we haven't noticed a thing,” says German tourist Nicole, while Andrea adds that the euro crisis has not put her off Greece. “We're coming next year too,” she says. “I don't care if we have to pay in euros or drachmas.” - Sapa-dpa

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