Tourists undeterred despite Greek drama

People drink on a terrace in central Athens, Greece on July 6, 2015.
People drink on a terrace in central Athens, Greece on July 6, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Greek economy may face more trouble after voters delivered a defiant no to the terms of a bailout, but tourists remain undeterred and the prospect of rock-bottom prices may even be increasing interest.

Travel associations in Britain, Germany and France report no cancellations so far and say bookings have been strong.

In fact, searches for flights to Greece from Britain and Spain are up in recent days, says travel search engine Skyscanner.

Bookings for flights from Britain to Greece in July and August rose by 14 percent after banks were closed on June 29, Skyscanner said, while searches were up 12 percent in June compared with last year. From Spain, searches for flights were up 20 percent from June 28 to July 5.

In Germany, which has taken a hard line on Greece and which has borne the brunt of anti-austerity protests in Athens, the country remains a popular destination. "We are still taking bookings for Greece and there is no change in the levels," a spokesman for Thomas Cook's German arm said.

German travel association DRV said bookings since May had risen strongly. "This shows that Germans are not being put off by the headlines on the financial crisis," the association said.

About 22 million tourists visited Greece last year and tourism accounts for 18 percent of the economy.

Analysts at Jefferies said while the uncertainty from the debt crisis may hold back some late bookings, it should not have a long-term impact. Still, the analysts set aside a 10 million pound profit provision for both TUI and Thomas Cook.

Shares in the two tour operators have fallen over the last week, hurt mainly by the deadly attack on tourists at Sousse and the cost of cancellations and rebooking. Tourists now afraid for their safety in Tunisia could turn to Greece as an alternative.

The Greek debt crisis may also lead to some good deals for those seeking a last minute holiday this summer.

Travel search site Kayak.de said hotel prices for this week were 8 percent below last year, while Skyscanner said return flights were available for departure in July from as little as 79 pounds per person.

French tour operator Heliades said however that it was not offering big discounts because its hotels and flights were already very full.

While Greeks wait at ATMs to withdraw limited amount of cash and Athen's Syntagma Square has again become a hotspot for protests, the situation in resorts such as Kos, Corfu and Rhodes remains calm, tour operators said. "It is currently very much business as usual. We have had no reports of shortages, food, medical or otherwise in resorts," a spokeswoman for British travel association ABTA said.

Travel companies say tourists should take plenty of cash in small denominations. Even if Greece does revert to the Drachma, euros will likely still be accepted, Germany's DRV said.