Greek tourism battered by political crisis, fear

Thu Jun 7, 2012 5:26am EDT
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By Yannis Behrakis and Renee Maltezou

KILLINI, Greece (Reuters) - When he took a job as the manager of one of Greece's biggest resorts overlooking a sandy beach near Ancient Olympia, the cradle of the Olympic Games, Michalis Minadakis thought he had the goose that laid the golden egg.

But seven years later, his dream of a bonanza with sun-seeking tourists is in ruins as the country's debt crisis has deepened, sparking talk of a Greek exit from the euro and social unrest that has begun to scare off visitors.

"Germans have been good friends of Greek tourism but they're afraid to come over now," said Minadakis, his eyes fixed on empty sunbeds around a pool at his Olympia Riviera Resort that boasts four hotels and a beach that is 1.2 miles long (2km).

"This will be a very tough year. The hurdles we are facing are huge," he said, adding that he had suffered a 25 percent drop in bookings this year and received 50 percent fewer visitors from Germany, Greece's biggest tourist market.

Tourism, which slumped by 25 percent in 2009-2010 only to rebound last year, is crucial to Greece's economy, accounting for 15 percent of its output and one in five jobs in a country where unemployment has hit a record high of 21 percent.

Greece's sandy resorts, azure waters and ancient temples remain popular, but will not, it seems, be enough to pull it out of a fifth year of recession.

Andreas Andreadis, the head of Greece's tourism enterprises association (SETE), said he feared revenues would plunge this year. "We will see a considerable drop," he told Reuters. "A negative number, something like 10-15 percent."

The pain is already being felt - tourist receipts for the first quarter tumbled by 15.1 percent to 396.3 million euros from 466.7 million euros, the Bank of Greece said.   Continued...

A Greek flag flutters as the sun sets framed by palm trees on the beach front of Olympia Riviera resort in the town of Killini, some 285 kms southwest of Athens May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis