Holidays hit by travel firm shock
Andy Cornish: August 2014
Double blow as two Russian travel firms go bust.
It looks like the rise in Greek Islands holiday visitors from Russia could falter as a second Russian holiday travel firm goes bust in just two weeks. An estimated 15,000 Russians are thought to be stranded on islands in Greece following the collapse of Russian tour operator Intaer which announced suspension of all holiday operations last week.
It comes after one of the country's biggest holiday tour operators Labirint filed for bankruptcy, leaving an estimated 20,000 Russian tourists stranded world-wide in countries like Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Bulgaria.
According to latest reports the Russian travel fund Turpomosch bas booked more than 50 flights to help stranded holidaymakers get back home from Greece and the Greek islands with emergency flights expected from Crete, Corfu, and Kos.
The Intaer website has announced the suspension of all activities: "Due to the inability to fulfil its obligations to the tourists and customers on contracts sale of the tourist group of companies .. . Among the reasons for this sudden decision forced falling demand and purchasing power due to a sharp increase in the exchange rate and negative political situation."
Intaer has been in business since 1992 and its prime destinations were Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Greece and India. It is thought the collapse of Labirint had a direct effect on the viability of Intaer.
A sharp rise in Russian Intaer and the Greek Islands was a big surprise to tourist watchers last year when Russian visitors rose a whopping 56% on 2012 to around 1.3 million.
It compares to 2.1 million visitors from Germany and 1.9 million from the UK and gave Germans 12.7% of the holiday market, with Britain in second place at 10.3% and Russia third with a 7.5% market share.
Hopes were high that another increase in Russian holiday visitors this year could help Greece set a new record in annual tourists arrivals to take it well past last year's record visitor numbers of 17.9 million.
According to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), the travel agency Labirint has 8,000 to 10,000 tourists in Greece at the time of the collapse. The bankruptcy of the two Russian agencies will almost certainly have a dramatic effect on Greek tourism this year as it was depending on a major influx of Russian visitors.
Russian tour operators have been badly hit by Western sanctions in the wake of the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner MH17, which have triggered a collapse in the value of the ruble.