Disaster brings sales crisis for tour firms operators

Tourism
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The Independent Online

For the Greek tourist industry, the timing of the tragedy could not have been worse. With the present summer season winding down, tour operators and travel agents are trying to sell the remaining holidays whileheavily promoting next year's brochures.

For the Greek tourist industry, the timing of the tragedy could not have been worse. With the present summer season winding down, tour operators and travel agents are trying to sell the remaining holidays whileheavily promoting next year's brochures.

"The phones went dead from the moment [ Express Samina] hit the rocks", said Ian Murdoch, managing director of Laskarina, a specialist operator. "We've given up hope of selling any more holidays this summer."

The immediate problem for travel companies with clients in Greece is that many inter-island ferries have been cancelled because of the Express Samina sinking. Laskarina was obliged to charter an executive jet to fly three round-trips to transfer 50 holidaymakers on the small island of Ikaria to Samos. "It's been mayhem," Mr Murdoch said.

Although few tour operators use big inter-island ferries such as the Express Samina, the high death toll could have a serious impact on holidaymakers' decisions for next year.

Greece has traditionally maintained a healthy share of the British holiday trade, and is the most popular destination after Spain and France. Although there was a dip last year, when the war in Kosovo and anti-Nato protests in Athens affected the number of visitors, this summer saw a recovery, and the outlook for next year was for continued improvement.

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