I’ll bet there are a lot of fingers crossed in Spain, Portugal and Greece for an avalanche of tourists. The sun is shining, the sea is warming up and the welcome mats are out.
Last northern summer Greece experienced about a 20 per cent downturn in tourism, putting a lot of businesses under stress. Bloody riots in Athens over austerity measures were to blame. The images on television were beamed around the world and the phones at hotels ran hot with potential visitors wanting to cancel their reservations.
Many Greeks are tired of the latest austerity measures and it’s unlikely some tourism businesses could withstand another poor summer. The unemployment rate is 15.9 per cent. Just this week thousands once again marched in Athens, with scuffles and injuries as a result.
In Portugal the jobless rate is 10.7 per cent and in Spain it’s whopping 21.29 per cent. Little Cyprus also has a nightmarish unemployment rate of 24 per cent.
Greece is struggling with a mountain of 327 billion euros debt. The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission are evaluating Greece’s progress on the terms of its 110 billion euro bailout.
Bloomberg reports Portgual’s economy will shrink twice as much as forecast this year as the government implements additional austerity measures to qualify for an international aid package of as much as 78 billion euros.
Around one million more tourists are expected to visit Spain this year, many of them northern Europeans re-routing trips from regions that have become natural or political disaster zones: good news for an industry emerging from a long downturn, Reuters says. However re-routed tourism in the past has seen a temporary economic boost in Spain with no long-lasting effect.
Major travel companies are also feeling the pinch. http://www.travelweekly.co.uk reports Tui Travel has followed rival Thomas Cook in disclosing the level of losses caused by the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Tui said the figure amounted to £29 million. In the half-year to the end of March, Thomas Cook made a loss of £166 million. It had 160,000 cancellations for Tunisia and Egypt after both countries overthrew their regimes with a great deal of unrest which is still not over. Egypt has lost 13.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($US2.27 billion) in tourism revenues in the three months since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Libya’s tourist industry is unlikely to recover any time soon. Syria is also in the midst of a revolution. So far, Lebanon is reasonably OK, as are the Gulf states except for Bahrain.
It seems the economic crises of Spain etc, and unrest in the Middle East benefit bargain hunters. Travel companies can’t afford to put up their prices, and destinations desperately want bums on seats although elevated threats of terrorism could thwart travel plans for Americans. On the other hand, millions of people have soaked up the sunshine in the Med, and returned home safely, tanned and relaxed, no matter what is happening elsewhere in the world.