Greek prime minister promises ‘free week’s holiday to Rhodes’ for holidaymakers whose trips were cut short

Terms and conditions will apply to the offer from Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with air fares unlikely to be included

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 03 August 2023 21:19 BST
Come back: Greek prime minister offers free Rhodes holidays to all tourists affected by wildfires
Come back: Greek prime minister offers free Rhodes holidays to all tourists affected by wildfires (ITV/GMB)

Holidaymakers whose trips to Rhodes were cut short by wildfires have been offered a week’s free stay on the island by the Greek prime minister.

After wildfires ravaged up to 15 per cent of Rhodes, Kyriakos Mitsotakis told ITV Good Morning Britain: “The island is perfectly back to normal.”

Around 20,000 tourists were evacuated from resorts in the southeast of the island when wildfires spread on 22 July.

Many overseas visitors were placed in emergency shelters set up in schools and other public buildings, and flown back early in an airlift.

Anyone whose holiday ended early is, according to the prime minister, entitled to a free week.

Mr Mitsotakis said: “For all of those whose holidays were cut short as a result of the wildfires, the Greek government – in cooperation with the local authorities – will offer one week of free holidays on Rhodes next spring and next fall, so that we make sure that they come back to the island and that they enjoy its natural beauty.”

It is not clear how the offer will work, with key questions unanswered:

  • How holidaymakers will prove they were evacuated before their holiday was completed.
  • Whether some holidaymakers who had traumatic experiences may not want to return.
  • Timing: the offer clearly excludes peak summer, which may be regarded as extending from June to September 2024. April, May and October are low-season months with plentiful accommodation.
  • Will air fares be included? It seems extremely unlikely, since buying return tickets for 20,000 overseas visitors would cost at least £5m.

The deal may prove beneficial to airlines, but not necessarily to tour operators who would normally be selling package holidays in spring and autum.

A spokesperson for Tui, one of the big two holiday companies, said: “We are aware of the kind offer from the Greek government and we are awaiting further information.”

The Greek National Tourism Organisation said in a statement: “The Greek government has initiated a series of discussions with stakeholders including, but not limited to, tour operators, travel agencies, hoteliers and airlines.

“In collaboration with all stakeholders we are collecting data required to define the number and requirements of potential beneficiaries in order to inform them about the next steps.

“The process will be facilitated by a digital tailor-made platform for the claimants of the vacation package.”

The Greek prime minister added: “We have no active wildfires as we speak and the weather for the next 15 days looks relatively benign.

“We’ve always had the wildfires in the Mediterranean for millennia.

“What has changed over the past years as a result of climate change is their intensity.

“We understand that this caused some inconvenience for visitors, but I’m happy to report that Rhodes today is more welcoming than ever.”

Offering free holidays after a natural disaster is believed to be a first for the travel industry.

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