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Greek island holidays stay popular as ever

- by Andy Cornish

Bookings for Greek Island holidays remain strong despite the current Eurozone crisis and the rejection of the latest bailout deal.

International travel company TUI Group has reported that holiday bookings to Greece and the Greek Islands are still higher than last year, showing that "Greece continues to be a very popular holiday destination".

The travel firm expects a record number of holidaymakers to fly out to beach holidays on the Greek Islands in the high summer season of July, August and September.

Tourist traffic on the Ionian island of Zakynthos rose 5% in June compared to last year and is 4% up for the year according to figures from the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels with the number of visitors from the UK up by 10%.

The holiday market continues to flourish despite extensive media coverage of the country's rejection of the austerity measures proposed by the Eurozone in return for a further bailout of the struggling Greek economy.

Greek banks have been closed for more than a week and will probably stay closed until Monday, July 13, according to latest government reports.

Greek still labour under capital controls as the government tries to keep banks afloat until European leaders meet later this week to consider the latest Greek proposals for extending any bailout loans.

Without a deal, the Greek banks are expected to run out of cash this week unless the European Central Bank increases the limit of emergency liquidity assistance.

Bank officials say that if Greece does not come to an agreement with its creditors and there is no emergency assistance then even cash machines will cease to operate from next week.

Currently, Greeks cannot withdraw more than €60 daily although holidaymakers are free to use cash machines normally. It is thought the Greek government may set a €1,000 euro limit on the amount Greek travellers can take abroad.

Meanwhile, British holidaymakers are advised to take plenty of cash with them to pay for their holiday and avoid the queues at cash machines.

The UK newspaper The Guardian recommends that holidaymakers opt for a Greek holiday this year and benefit from the low prices.

An article insists that despite Greece's economic woes, the country is an ideal holiday destination with sunny weather, magical beaches and delicious food.

The article goes on to describe the Greeks as "even more welcoming, more hospitable and more grateful than ever" and praises them for their reaction to economic problems as they welcome visitors with "a broader smile, a wider embrace".

There are certainly been no reports from tour operators of any problems on the islands or disruptions to services.

The British Ambassador to Greece, John Rittmer, agreed there is "considerable uncertainty" about what happens next in the country but added: "from over 30 years of travelling and now living in Greece, I know that Greece is a hospitable country and that Greeks will do all they can in exceptional times to make tourists welcome".

Travel advice from the Foreign Office warns of media reports of a shortage of medical supplies in some area of Greece and on some Greek Islands. It recommends that visitors take enough medicines for their stay.

The Foreign Office also says that while Greek banks are closed in Greece, UK holidaymakers can continue to withdraw cash using their cards as normal but they should take sufficient euros in cash "to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays".