The Ionian islands of Greece are world renowned for their paradise beaches, calm seas and laid back lifestyle. Corfu, the largest of these islands, has been a British holiday favourite for decades. But how has this popularity been affected by the recent troubles in Greece, and what do economic changes mean for Brits who already have summer holidays booked?
Currently in the grip of economic crisis and receiving bale outs from the rest of Europe, Greece has been receiving a lot of bad press recently. Images of angry crowds are accompanying headlines describing crisis and unrest; shocking debt figures are being quoted by government officials and reporters.
Despite this, though, it seems that negative images are not monopolising opinion of Greece in the British psyche. Market research company BDRC Continental have revealed that the number of British holiday makers heading to Greece this year has actually risen from 8% in 2011 to 9% in 2012. Unlike countries such as Egypt, who have seen a dip in bookings for this year, holidaymakers are continuing to choose Greece due to its natural beauty and cultural heritage, despite troubles.
This is good news for the Greek population considering that 20% of jobs are based within the tourism sector, which also constitutes 18% of Greece’s GDP. When one in five nationals rely on the future of the tourist industry for their income, a huge emphasis is being placed on maintaining tourist locations and protecting the sector as a whole. But what else has convinced holiday makers that Greece is still a desirable place to visit?
An important factor is that the riots and unrest are based in the country’s cities. Whilst tourists may be more reluctant to visit Athens, the Greek islands have remained peaceful and are still the beautiful, laid back locations they always have been. Travel companies such as Tui, which encompasses Thompson and First Choice, have stated that they have no major concerns about the safety of tourists travelling to the Greek islands this summer, or about the quality of their holiday experience.
There have been some concerns about Greece’s potential withdrawal from the euro. Holiday makers should be reassured by the fact that this will not be an overnight transition, and that their holiday money will not be rendered worthless if the change occurs whilst they are visiting. In the long term, Greece’s dropping out of the euro could actually benefit visitors, as the pound will go further if Greece reconverts to drachmas.
So it seems that it will be business as usual for the Greek islands this summer, with the riots most likely feeling a world away from the pristine beaches and cosy tavernas frequented by tourists. This is good news for Greece, who are now relying on the confidence of holidaymakers more than ever, and for the countless British holiday makers who have been enjoying the Greek landscape and culture for years.
Written by Sophie McGovern