So here we are again. Greece is teetering on the brink of the eurozone precipice, and as TTG went to press, economists were uncertain which way the beleaguered country was set to topple.
Scenario A would see Greece remain in the euro as a result of various promises made by prime minister Alexis Tsipras – among them, a series of VAT increases which would reportedly make goods 30% more expensive for tourists.
And then there is scenario B: Greece topples out of the euro – and potentially the European Union – away from the heavy debt owed to the International Monetary Fund, and into the potential arms of political unrest, inflation and a return to the drachma.
Either way, Greece faces a difficult summer, but have the headlines in the national media been exaggerated? I spoke last week with the chief executive of Celestyal Cruises, Kyriakos Anastassiadis, who is based in Athens. He is confident that Greece will not exit the euro. Even if it does, he believes the civil unrest and demonstrations that have been forecast by the media are unlikely.
Yes, cash will be king in Greece this summer – whether the country remains in the euro or not. The more than €3 billion withdrawn from the banks in the last week is testament to that. But Abta’s advice is simply for holidaymakers to take money with them. Chief executive Mark Tanzer went further, saying there was “no indication that holidays would be disrupted”.
“This is an unusual situation,” Abta acknowledged, “but the industry is experienced in handling unusual situations.”
Indeed, tour operators are already promising to swallow any additional costs should they arise while others have made arrangements to facilitate cash for tourists who require it on the ground. Greece is a key destination for many UK travel firms. The burden of Greece’s debt may be heavy, but the people of Greece – and some in the UK trade – will pay an even greater price if tourist numbers drop. This is a Greek tragedy that can be avoided if the industry works together.