German tourism industry calms Grexit worries

The outlook is still sunny for Greece.
The outlook is still sunny for Greece.

The German tourism industry has worked overtime over the last week to reassure customers that any Greek exit from the eurozone will not impact negatively on their holidays, and bookings appear to be remaining steady at present.

The continuing uncertainty over whether the Greek debt crisis can be solved or the country will be forced to leave the eurozone has raised fears that foreign tourists might be hit by a sudden return to the drachma. But German tourism leaders have repeatedly stressed over the last week that there are unlikely to be any negative consequences – and there could even be some positive ones.

The German Travel Association (DRV) emphasised that a re-introduction of the drachma would only have minimal consequences for tourists since tour operators had already contracted services such as flights, hotel accommodation and bus transfers for this year in euros. Destination spending could be made with cash, debit or credit cards.

German tour operators, including TUI, Thomas Cook and Alltours, made similar comments to German media over the last week. Company spokespersons emphasised that a Grexit would not impact on the contracts of package holidaymakers which were already paid for, and recommended that tourists should take a mix of cash and cards with them on holiday. If the drachma was re-introduced, then local prices could even fall while tourists would benefit from having strong euros which they could convert to drachmas for payments in the destination.

The DRV also said that there is no sign of a slowdown or decline in bookings for Greece at present. Tour operator bookings over the first five months of the year were stable at the high levels of last year, and there was even a strong sales rise in May, it pointed out. The association underlined that German tourists remained welcome in Greece “despite occasional political campaigns against Germany in the past”.

TUI said its Greece bookings are steady “at the excellent level of last year”, although Mediterranean product manager Markus Stumpe admitted: “Demand could even be better if we didn’t have the Grexit debate.” FTI Touristik and Thomas Cook also reported good demand, and product manager Daniela Köhler predicted “strong late sales”.

DER Touristik CEO René Herzog disclosed that the company has a double-digit rise for Greece, especially driven by Crete and Rhodes. Alltours expects an increase of more than 10% in customer numbers by the end of the season. “We’re very satisfied with the trend for Greece,” said tourism director Markus Daldrup.

Similarly, Swiss tour operators reported good bookings for the destination. A Kuoni spokesman said that customers “know their holiday arrangements are secure” but warned that if political developments resulted in “very negative headlines”, then Swiss customers could switch late summer bookings and autumn holiday bookings to alternative destinations.

Marketing Greece also said that German and Swiss bookings remain good after the record year in 2014. Last year a record 2.5 million Germans travelled to Greece, up from 2.3 million in 2013.

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