Greek crisis no windfall for thrifty travellers - yet
Some last-minute deals appearing for hotels but not airfares, travel agent says
Canadians love a good bargain. They especially salivate over a good travel bargain.
But tourists hoping to benefit from Greece's economic pain aren't seeing the blockbuster travel deals some assumed would follow the current financial turmoil in the country. At least not yet.
"I'll tell you what, there are no sell-offs on airfares because Greece is very busy, but you might get better prices on the hotels," says George Dimitrakopoulos, owner of Mr. Travel, a travel agency in Toronto's Danforth neighbourhood.
Dimitrakopoulos came to Canada from Greece when he was 12. "I'm a man with grey hair now," he says.
This is peak season for his business, which for 38 years has specialized in travel to Greece.
"I was just looking on the internet and there were some deals for hotels. Last minute, there's some good deals."
That's something he says you'd never usually see from July through early September, especially on five-star hotels.
"People who want to go to the big islands like Santorini or Mykonos ... there are no deals.They're still packed, and charge whatever they want," says the younger Dimitrakopoulos.
Travel agents say they are getting calls from Canadians who expect huge price drops on flights and hotels. But direct flights from Toronto and Montreal this summer will still run you anywhere from $1,000 to about $2,000, depending on which carrier you choose.
"It's peak season right now. So unless Greece starts seeing mass cancellations, opening up space and availability, we won't likely see any deals," says Flight Centre spokesperson Allison Wallace in Vancouver.
But Wallace adds, "That being said, it's a bit too soon to tell and there's a lot of uncertainty around this, so that could change in the coming days, weeks."
Travel dollars help bail out Greece
Greece, and the Greek people, are known around the globe for their gracious hospitality. That, in addition to the country's stunning beaches, fresh food and famous archeological sites is one of the many reasons tourists flock there each year.
Travel and tourism contributed more than € 29 billion to the Greek economy in 2014, which accounts for more than 17 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. That number is still expected to rise by more than 3 per cent this year.
Toronto resident and CBC employee Anne Megas is in northern Greece for three weeks, visiting family near Thessaloniki. She says Greeks likely won't be travelling to their own famous islands as much this summer, and notes ferry boat traffic is already down 30 per cent, an all time low.
She adds that foreign tourists are being welcomed even more warmly than usual. "Advice from friends and family here is to bring Euros. You'll get extras, so to speak."
Reservations about your reservations?
Even if crafty Canadians do manage to drum up deals on flights and hotels, there are some potential pitfalls to consider once they arrive in Greece, such as the ability to easily pay for things.
Cold hard cash is hard to come by these days in Greece.
- Avery Shenfeld, CIBC World Markets.
The good news is that foreigners using Greek bank machines are allowed to withdraw more than the strict €60 ($84 Cdn) daily limit Greek account holders have been subject to.
"It's quite a different issue for the Greek banks of someone using their bank machine, versus withdrawing money from a Greek bank account," says Avery Shenfeld, CIBC World Markets chief economist.
But Shenfeld says that, too, could change.
"It's still possible that the Greek bank machines could run out of actual physical cash, so if I was a traveller, it wouldn't hurt to come with some additional money. The bottom line is, better safe than sorry, but it doesn't mean you cancel your trip."
Back at Mr.Travel, that's music to travel agent, George Dimitrakopoulos' ears.
"Life is too short not to visit Greece."