Greek resort manager Kostas Dimitrokalis’s customers have started asking in recent weeks about an amenity often ignored in an age of online and credit card payments: reliable hotel safes to stash their money.
“Clients want to feel secure that if something happens, they’ll have funds,” Dimitrokalis, who heads the KD Hotels chain with six resorts on the island of Santorini, said in a telephone interview. “They’re coming with more cash.”
Helping travelers rest easy is something Dimitrokalis can handle. More troubling for him is what if they simply don’t come at all? While his hotels are full right now, Dimitrokalis says forward bookings are weak given the uncertainty surrounding the country’s financing.
That’s a sentiment echoed by Greece’s tourism industry as a whole. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, which said last month that a strong start to the year had been trailing off, declined this week to discuss the possible impact of the government’s showdown with creditors because “the situation is just too fluid.”
The country has payments looming to the International Monetary Fund and a June 30 deadline to reach an agreement with no deal in sight -- making some travelers possibly question their trips -- just as hoteliers, restaurant owners and sailboat skippers head into the peak travel season.
Tourism generates 17 percent of gross domestic product in Greece, meaning any slowdown would hit the economy hard. Before the latest flareup in the funding dispute, the country was heading toward a record year for visitors, with the number of tourists surging 46 percent in the first quarter to 1.73 million, according to the latest data from the Bank of Greece.
TUI AG, Europe’s largest tour operator, said it’s only had sporadic inquiries from travelers about the impact a Greek exit from the euro would have on their holiday, while Thomas Cook Group Plc said it still sees strong demand for travel to the country. Both companies said trips wouldn’t be affected because they are selling package tours to customers.
The advice from experts for travelers heading to the country is to keep abreast of the latest developments and bring along enough cash to last 3-4 days just in case, said David Swann, a spokesman for Travelex, which specializes in foreign currency exchange and operates stores and ATMs around the world.
“Our advice for people planning a trip to Greece is to exercise caution,” Swann said.
Greeks are hoping for more visitors like Elizabeth Sinclair, who shrugged off crisis-related warnings from others not to go to the country. The 28-year-old New Yorker landed in Athens Tuesday on the first stop of a Greece trip that will take her and two friends to islands including Santorini and Naxos.
“Some people definitely told us not to come but we just ignored that,” Sinclair said, adding that she didn’t take any extra precautions for her trip. “We’ve always wanted to come to Greece.”
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One of Sinclair’s traveling companions, Laura Nagy, even sees a potential benefit in the situation.
“Some people told us not to come because of the economy, but I said, ‘cheaper:’” said Nagy, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher from Melbourne, Florida. “People are going to be more desperate for my money.”