Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Operators prepare for Greece exiting eurozone

TUI has revealed it has put contingency measures in place in case Greece exits the eurozone, which is now looking increasingly likely.


While refusing to reveal what those measures were, a TUI spokeswoman hinted the operator could shift capacity away from the Greek islands if the situation in the country worsens following next month's elections.


She said: "We cannot predict what is going to happen, however, the inherent flexibility in our business model gives us the ability to move capacity dependent on where our customers want to go, for example, last year we moved capacity away from North Africa due to the Arab Spring."


The International Monetary Fund warned European leaders yesterday that they should prepared for Greece's exit from the single currency, which head of the IMF Christine Lagarde conceeded was likely to be "quite messy".


There are reports the Greeks are already pulling their euros out of banks, with a reported €700m withdrawn on Monday alone.


UK tour operators are keeping a very close eye on the situation in Greece, where voters have rejected a political party that had agreed to austerity measures in return for two bailouts by the IMF. A second round of elections will be held next month after days of coalition talks failed to produce agreement on a new government.


European leaders are threatening to cut off funding for Greece unless the new government imposes the cuts, which analysts believe would mean effective bankruptcy for the country and its exit from the eurozone


Some analysts believe the country could descend into chaos as the Greek currency would become worthless, but Thomas Cook said there would be positives as well as negatives for the travel industry if Greece left the Euro. However, the operator refused to expand beyond saying that the country remained popular and "great value" for holidaymakers.


"We're working with our suppliers and closely monitoring the evolving situation in Athens," said its spokesman.


A TUI spokeswoman said: "Greece remains a popular destination for our customers and we anticipate that it will remain so. We have contingency plans in place should the country exit the eurozone and we continue to work with our Greek suppliers and hotel partners as we keep a very close eye on the situation".


Referring to recent demonstrations of political unrest in Athens, TUI said there was no indication this would spread to areas visited by its clients. " The comfort and well-being of our customers is of paramount importance to us," she said. " In the unlikely event that civil unrest does break out near our resorts, we have tried and tested procedures for ensuring that our customers are looked after."


Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides said bookings had definitely slowed since the Greek elections, which failed to form a new government. He said Sunvil sales were 12% down since the elections, although the operator has cut 7% capacity, mainly in May.


However, Josephides said it was certain that holidays to Greece would be cheaper if Greece returned to the drachma. "This is a definite, as clients' spending money will go further," he said.






By Linsey McNeill



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