Following on from our Checklist for Greece article yesterday, this fast moving situation will require updating as matters develop. It will also require updating as and when we hear from holidaymakers about what the situation in Greece is like. This latter point is important because I have recently been discussing this issue on the radio along with travel industry spokespersons. Those interviews have been peppered with great support for the Greek people, but also with 'news' of the fantastic deals on offer and little acknowledgement of the crisis now being faced by the Greek people and Consumers alike.
Let me state so that no-one misunderstands me; it is not, nor has ever been the intention of this Organisation to affect a destination or resort's ability to earn its living from tourism. However, in emergency situations like this, it is incumbent on this Organisation to give as clear as information as possible to Consumers who visit this site. The problem for both Consumers and the people who rely on the tourism product is that they are often at the mercy and the failures of politicians who are charged to make important decisions about economies, safety and the operation of their daily lives; these roles are not in the remit of this Organisation and so we have to react to these events in order to try and deliver strategy primarily for Consumers. No-one in any of these resorts should mistake our offerings to Consumers as lacking support for them; we understand that those who rely on Tourism are just the same as the many ordinary people who use the product in that they are simply trying to live their lives and provide for themselves and their families.
That said, we have now spoken to holidaymakers who have returned from Greece and they have given us an insight to some of the issues that may present themselves if you are about to visit Greece:
- We have been told that many of the restaurants and bars in popular resorts are not as full as had been experienced in previous visits;
- Apparently it would appear that Greek people, who it has been said, make up a large number of tourists to the islands, are simply not travelling because there is little money for them to spend;
- There is deep concern that the island economies will struggle to get past the winter of 2015/16 because of the fall in numbers;
- Local bars/restaurants have apparently expressed their view that the key problem to their survival at this stage is the method and operation of the All-Inclusive holiday hotels - essentially people are not venturing out and 'feeding' into the local economy;
- There are reports that some cash-tills are empty;
- This information perhaps confirms the reports or fears expressed in newspapers. This would suggest that there is some validity in bringing extra cash but I still have some concerns about security and you should follow our guidance on security in our Checklist for Greece;
- Perhaps another option is to consider obtaining cash through some 'Western Union' type cash transfer system. This would mean that family could 'feed' cash to you every few days via a money transfer. However, before you employed this service, you would have to be confident that the money transfer service could guarantee that you could receive that cash;
- If you are considering a money transfer service, then speak to your own bank in the UK who should be in a position to advise you how this can be effected;
- On a practical level, I can recall travelling to Greece and Turkey before the advent of the Euro. On that visit I was advised to carry Greek and Turkish currency but also $US! On that visit it was easy to transact in shops and restaurants because in each country, not only were their own currency accepted but so too was the $US! Now I am not saying that this is the solution to any cash difficulties, but perhaps part of your strategy to carry cash should be to consider carrying another currency?
- There are reports that in some establishments they are not accepting credit cards and will only accept cash;
- This is potentially of concern because we have seen in recent days the news that cards will be widely accepted;
- Perhaps in general they will, particularly in the bigger establishments;
- If we think of this logically, the banks and the credit card companies will still be charging the 'merchant' their handling fee;
- I do not imagine for a minute that these same banks and credit card companies will either lower those fees or abandon them for a short period;
- Thinking about small businesses, they may not be able to absorb these 'extra' costs from banks or credit card companies, so they will decline to accept cards in favour of cash.
- We have been told that one couple experienced a burglary at their villa whilst they slept and suffered the loss of personal electrical equipment - it was suggested to them that these events have become more common;
- This is the area that concerns me most. You will have read in our Checklist for Greece that I have been loathe to suggest that crime will increase. However, I will repeat what I said yesterday; this is a unique situation, people are desparate and they may behave uncharacteristically;
- If you find yourself in a threatening situation, DO NOT seek to tackle any criminal activity on your own. I understand only too well the impulse to protect property, but I would suggest that you resist doing so;
- The distinction must be made however if you were to experience threats of a personal nature only; here if the threat is immediate then you must protect yourself, but you should seek where possible to avoid becoming embroiled in a potentially violent situation;
- Where safe to do so, call the emergency services on 112!
- Follow our guidance on personal safety in our Checklist for Greece!
Yesterday's reports suggested that the British Government had a number of 'contingency' plans to help holidaymakers in Greece.
One suggestion has been to suggest that the UK has plans to 'fly millions of Euros to Greece'; given that British Holidaymakers will be scattered all around Greece, I am not sure how any distribution could be affected?
For example, if the plan was to deposit these 'millions' of Euros in one bank, this could create a security issue at cash-tills or worse, resentment toward a more favourable treatment given to holidaymakers. It is difficult to analyse this information and to assess its accuracy, but one thing is clear, there is a shortage of medicines and the Chancellor has urged holidaymakers to bring enough with them - we did the same yesterday in our Checklist for Greece!
Frankly it is not clear what is going to happen today; I can only hope that those charged with responsibility for this mess will rise to the occasion and leave behind the petty politics of late.
From our perspective, we will update our articles on Greece as and when we receive further information!