Travel Agents Unfazed by Greece's Economic Crisis
PHOTO: The resort-lined shoreline of Corfu, Greece. (ThinkStock)
Travel agents were unfazed by news of Greece’s worsening economic crisis and reports that the British government is warning travelers to ready themselves for quick departures from the country in the event that it declares bankruptcy.
They said it’s business as usual when it comes to booking travel to Greece, and that clients are neither expressing concern nor canceling trips.
“I think at this point, this is a non-story,” said Claire Schoeder of Century Travel in Atlanta. “I have clients going to Greece, and I’m going in September on a cruise.”
She does, however, offer travelers a piece of advice: “I advise them to have a bit more cash than they usually would carry and to make sure they have several credit cards with them.”
Angela Turen of Churchill & Turen in Naperville, Ill., said the agency’s business to Greece has not only been unaffected in the short term, but the long term as well. “Travelers are booking for 2016, particularly cruises operating between Athens and Istanbul,” she said. “This is a point in time when our partners in Greece really need our support. To the best of our ability, we will try to be there for them.”
Furthermore, she believes that Greece’s current economic situation needs to be put into a less sensationalized perspective. “The entire economy of Greece is just about the same size as the economy of Orange County, California,” she said. “Withdrawal from the European Union would be serious but not catastrophic. The end result, after some political chaos, could be that Greece goes back to the drachma and becomes Europe’s best bargain.”
Peter Friedman of Unique Travel in Delray Beach, Fla., put it another way: “The situation could become a buying opportunity for Americans,” he said, adding that he has actually seen in uptick in business to Greece this year. “My biggest client is flying to Greece today. It’s a great time to visit the destination.”
Jason Olson of True Vacation Travel in Redding, Calif., said he has witnessed a revived interest in cruises to the Greek Isles and the Eastern Mediterranean within the last six months or so. “Our clients are aware of the turmoil but feel secure when taking a cruise knowing that, overall, the ship’s captain will do the very best for the safety of the passengers and crew,” he said.
In ASTA’s view, Greece’s economic woes underscore the value travel agents offer travelers during times of crisis.
“While ASTA has no particular first-hand knowledge of the situation in Greece and we would not want to speculate on it, we note that, in general, there are steps travelers can take to mitigate risk when traveling, including anyone currently in or planning to go to Greece,” said Jennifer Michels, ASTA’s vice president of communications.
“Using a travel agent, especially one who specializes in the country of travel, is of great advantage during these unfortunate circumstances. They will have crisis communications/travel plans in place to help get clients where they need to be, and safely, and often have a relationship with a local ground handler or tour operator to call on for assistance.”
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