Greek authorities said Sept. 23 they were working to get some 50,000 tourists back home after they were stranded, mostly on islands, after the collapse of the major British travel firm Thomas Cook that had been battling financial problems. Up to 30,000 people stuck in Spain’s Canary Islands; 21,000 in Turkey and 15,000 in Cyprus.
A Tourism Ministry official told the news agency Reuters that the tourists, mainly British, were vacationing on the popular destination islands of Zakynthos, Kos, Corfu, Skiathos and Crete. “The top priority now is to get them back home,” the official said, declining to be named.
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis then stepped in and told SKAI TV that the first 22,000 are to be repatriated over the next three days, the minister said, adding that aircraft were to arrive on the islands where they were waiting, organized by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Some 20,000 of the Thomas Cook customers in Greece are on Crete, said Michalis Vlatakis, the head of the island’s union of tour operators, who described the collapse of Thomas Cook as a “7-magnitude earthquake,” adding that the local tourism sector was “waiting for the tsunami.”
Thomas Cook, one of Britain’s oldest companies, ran hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries and the instant downfall would hit Greek hotel owners hard because most of the vacation deals weren’t prepaid.
“The situation is quite difficult. It does not affect just British tourists but other nationalities as well,” Grigoris Tassios told state TV ERT, adding that many hotels were expected to make losses on payments affecting vacation packages for the last two months, meaning “many millions of euros” would be lost.
“Up to October 15 there are high occupancies, so we will suffer losses from this segment, too,” Tassios said, adding that the hotels would go to the courts trying to get money from Thomas Cook if there’s any left after its collapse.