ATHENS – Greek hotels fearing a disaster after the collapse of the British travel giant Thomas Cook, which had extensive packages with them, got a break when German tour operator Tui signed long-term deals to help pick up the slack and expand in the country.
It wasn’t certain how many of the some 1.4 million travelers who had been using the British company would be picked up because of a shortage of airplane seats, especially in Greece, said the newspaper Kathimerini.
At a meeting on in the Greek capital, senior Tui official Sebastian Ebel said that, “We associate each bed with an air seat,” but stressed he wanted to nonetheless bring as many travelers as possible to Greece. Thomas Cook had its own airplanes.
Tui has already launched its bid to fill in for Thomas Cook, starting with October holiday packages after signing deals with Greek hotels across the country who said the demise of the British company could bring them economic ruin too before Tui’s deals.
Before the Tui agreement, the Thomas Cook sudden end – which stranded 50,000 people in Greece for a time – could have brought losses of 500 million euros ($547.05 million,) the head of the country’s tourism confederation SETE said.
Greece has been on a record run of tourism seasons but many hotels, especially those on popular islands, rely on package bookings from Thomas Cook, including those that aren’t prepaid, caused hoteliers to fear devastating losses although the agency’s collapse came after the peak summer period ended.
SETE President Andreas Andreadis said Greek businesses needed to be protected from the aftermath even as British authorities were scrambling to have flights repatriate citizens in the biggest operation of its kind since the end of World War II.
In a tweet, he said those should include an exemption from the payment of the overnight tax for Thomas Cook tourists and a lowering of the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate for tourist packages, said Kathimerini. “The government must realize the magnitude of the problem and take immediate decisions for support, to avoid the expected domino effect,” he said.
“Our tourism has never faced such a mega-bankruptcy until today. It is a difficult case, with huge costs and many consequences that require calmness and good cooperation from all sides.”
Andreadis also called on everyone working in the tourism industry to treat stranded tourists with “respect and generosity,” during the turmoil which brought much consternation.