Greeks fear sex attacks will deter Britons

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The Independent Online

Hoteliers, tour operators and business chiefs on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes, which attracts 430,000 Britons a year, called an emergency meeting last week after a string of sex attacks on British women. In the wake of the sentencing of British plane-spotters and a killer virus which closed schools around the country, they fear an annus horribilis.

Hoteliers, tour operators and business chiefs on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes, which attracts 430,000 Britons a year, called an emergency meeting last week after a string of sex attacks on British women. In the wake of the sentencing of British plane-spotters and a killer virus which closed schools around the country, they fear an annus horribilis.

Barely two weeks into the tourist season, a British woman was raped in the Rhodes resort of Faliraki. In another incident, two holiday representatives were beaten in an attempted sexual assault. The seaside town, dominated by British clubbers, achieved notoriety in the popular ITV series Club Reps, which showed the raunchy antics of Club 18-30 employees in Faliraki.

Police believe the rape victim, a 28-year-old with one child, was followed by her attacker when she left a nightclub. The assailant broke into the woman's house and held her captive until she escaped through a bedroom window.

Fearing the impact on tourism, the holiday industry is seeking to work with the police to halt the damaging spate of attacks. The local police chief, Elias Halivopoulos, insisted that Rhodes had "an excellent record for apprehending sex attackers", telling The Independent on Sunday: "Last year we had 11 rapes on the island, and 10 perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted." Last month, however, a local policeman was arrested on an armed robbery charge. Giorgos Poulis, 39, admitted demanding more than €30,000 (£19,000) from a bank in Faliraki at gunpoint, claiming in his defence that he had been drunk at the time.

Of Greece's 13 million foreign visitors a year, by far the largest proportion – nearly a quarter – is British. The tourism industry, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the Greek economy, hoped that bargain-hunting late bookers from Britain would make up for an expected shortfall in German and American tourists in the wake of 11 September, but now fears they will be put off by the spate of bad news.

"Nobody wants this publicity, which can affect tourism," said Panos Argyros, the UK head of the Greek Tourism Organisation. "Greece is one of the countries that relies on late bookings. May and June bookings will be important, as this year the whole market is late."

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