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Economy

Greece Invites German Pensioners Fretting Over Winter Heat Bills

ATHENS – Greece has an answer for Germans anxious about high heating bills coming this winter and the cost of living there: come on down!

They have an invitation from Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias to escape cold, dark, dreary weather there and bask in Greece even if it’s not exactly beach weather in the winter there either.

Gas bills are doubled in Germany and could go as high as 700 percent of what they were, making heat a luxury and perhaps wiser to spend your money in the warmth of Greece is the pitch.

Vasilis Kikilias said Greece can also offer them hospitality and generally lower grocery and retaurant prices although Greece has a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food.

“In the autumn and winter it would bring us great joy to welcome German pensioners who wish to experience a Mediterranean winter, with Greek hospitality, mild weather and a high level of service,” Kikilias told Germany’s largest selling tabloid, Bild. He added:  “We will be waiting for you.”

He said it was a gesture from Greece as a way of thanking German taxpayers who he said had helped bail out Greeks from the financial crisis of 2008.

Many Greek Mayors have jumped in, noted the British newspaper The Guardian of the idea to lure the Germans from their homeland during the winter and not just the summer.

Panagiotis Simandirakis, mayor of the port city of Chania on Crete, said the island has the best conditions for them, only two months of what is normally an extremely mild winter compared with Germany’s, to “survive the crisis winter,”

He said costs for everything from rent to a cup of coffee or a loaf of bread in Crete are a fraction of what they are in Germany although Greece too is experiencing soaring energy costs in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and worry whether Russian supplies will continue in the winter.

Greece, which is experiencing an unexpected boom in tourism in 2022 despie the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, has also been trying to shift toward year-round offerings even through the winter to attract foreigners who don’t care as much about the sun, sand, beaches and islands.

Some German pensioners liked the idea of being in Greece in the winter.

“It’s quite a useful suggestion, especially if it might end up costing less than staying at home,” Petra Schneider, a retiree from Cologne told the paper. . “But I will have to do some sums on an envelope to see if it adds up.”

The association of German travel agents VUSR had suggested in May that the government might find it cheaper in the long run to subsidize holidays to warmer places for about 500 euros ($504.59) for pensioners to save on utility bills and protect their health, the report said.

Some opposition politicians aren’t exactly keen on Germans preferring Greece and worry it could hurt Germany’s economy although a survey by the poll firm Civey said two-thirds of Germans fear gas shortages this winter.

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