By Sarah Townsend
UAE travel firm predicts demand for bookings will rise by 15% by the end of 2015
The cost of Greek holiday packages offered by Kanoo Travel, the Middle East’s biggest travel agency, has plummeted by up to 50 percent over the past 12 months, amid fears of a ‘Grexit’.
Kanoo Travel’s general manager Sunil D’Souza told Arabian Business that ongoing economic turbulence in Greece continues to be “good news for bargain holiday seekers”, but it is forcing tour operators to slash their prices more and more to remain competitive.
He said: “Greece is a point of interest. The costs have definitely come down compared to the last couple of years because of supply and demand. People can stay in five-star hotels for much less than before.
“Tour operators – including us – have no choice but to cut prices by 10, 30, 40, even 50 percent and the pattern is likely to continue [until there is a resolution].”
However, D’Souza added that Greece is not Kanoo Travel’s biggest market, and overall demand for holiday bookings across the company is holding up.
Once Ramadan is over and when school holidays begin, the company expects to see an increase in demand for holiday bookings of around 15 percentage points by year end, which is counteracting the price drop for individual holiday packages, D’Souza said.
“Greece is not our biggest market – we see more demand for places such as [northern] Europe, Turkey and Australia. We continue to offer a range of destinations and packages to suit every type of traveller.”
Talks aimed at preventing a default on loan repayments and possible exit from the euro stalled last week, leaving Greece no closer to being able to repay €1.6 billion ($435 million) of debt it owes to the International Monetary Fund by June 30.
It is still hoping for a last-ditch deal to resolve the crisis, but Germany’s EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger has announced it is time to prepare for a “state of emergency”.
Despite the ongoing financial chaos in Greece, the country’s tourism sector has remained relatively buoyant. But the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported on Monday that – contrary to D’Souza’s comments – demand is falling as the situation worsens.
Travel website Kayak.co.uk said online searches for Greek holidays plunged 53 percent last week, compared with the same time last year, and thousands of holiday packages remain unsold.
The newspaper said Thomson Holidays is selling a self-catering week at the Nostos Studios on the island of Thassos for £384 ($610) per person, a drop of 45 percent, while Ionian Island Holidays has slashed its flight-inclusive trips by up to 50 percent.