Tourists warned: Greece on verge of crashing out of euro
LONDON, England - A massive airlift will be staged to rescue tens of thousands of British holidaymakers if Greece goes bust and the country is thrown into economic meltdown.
LONDON, England – A massive airlift will be staged to rescue tens of thousands of British holidaymakers if Greece goes bust and the country is thrown into economic meltdown.
Whitehall officials and tour operators are ready to bring home up to 110,000 tourists if the cash-strapped country crashes out of the euro.
It would be the largest peacetime evacuation of Britons.
Already Ministers and travel agents are warning travelers to the country to carry cash and credit cards to cover any situation that emerges.
Details emerged as last-ditch talks on Greece’s huge debt continue today, following fears that local banks will run out of money forcing hotels and airports to close.
A run on the banks could mean no money in cash machines, a shortage of food and problems with medical supplies and treatment, possibly leading to riots.
Yesterday the Foreign Office admitted officials had been in talks with the Association of British Travel Agents to formulate evacuation plans.
A spokesman said: “We hope for the best but contingency plans are in place. These plans cover a wide range of scenarios. We update our travel advice and are liaising with Abta.”
Around two million Britons fly to Greece every year and there are currently around 110,000 staying on the mainland or its islands.
Tour operators say that customers are already arming themselves with “large amounts of cash”.
The Foreign Office advises visitors to take “enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays” and avoid relying on bank cards or cash machines.
Last night Abta urged travelers to carry cash and take out insurance to cover costs incurred by flight cancellations.
“Any changes would be highly unlikely to happen overnight, any switch to a new currency would take time and euros would likely be accepted in the interim,” it said.
“Holidaymakers heading out to Greece are advised to take some cash in euros as well as other payment methods so that they are covered for all situations.”
Abta “do not anticipate” tour operators having to move customers to different destinations.
“At present we have no indication that holidaymakers will be disrupted however, as with all destination matters, we will continue to monitor the situation. This is an unusual situation but the industry is experienced in handling unusual situations,” it added.
Thomson and First Choice have said they expect “no impact” on holidaymakers if Greece leaves the euro.
Thomas Cook said it expected the likely devaluation of the Greek currency “could make the country an even more attractive destination.”
Greece’s economic woes have already affected island airports.
Night flights in and out of Lesbos were stopped after its airport ran out of money to maintain electronic landing systems.
At least three other popular tourist destinations – Kos, Skiathos and Santorini – face similar problems.
The islands’ vital tourism industry has also been hit by asylum seekers arriving by boat from Turkey.
Customers searching for flights to Greece plummeted last week, down 53 percent on the same week last year.
Sunvil has slashed up to 50 percent off hundreds of holidays, and Thomson has cut prices by up to 30 percent.
Today Greece’s Left-wing government is holding eleventh-hour bail out talks with its creditors over its expected £1.1billion debt default on June 30.
Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said the EU faced a “stark choice” on whether to strike a deal to save Greece from bankruptcy.
On Friday George Osborne said Britain must “now be prepared for the worst”.