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Hopes of cheaper Greek flights

- by Archimedes

Hopes of cheaper flights to the Greek Islands.

The Greek government is to slash airport taxes in a bid to boost holidays in the Greek islands this year. The move could make Greek island airports among the cheapest in Europe. All airports outside Athens will reduce charges to airlines to use landing services in a bid to stem a forecast 10% drop in visitor numbers to Greece in 2012.

It is hoped airlines will pass on savings with cheaper fares for tourist visitors.

The Greek ministry of tourism says the measure is also aimed at increasing the number of regular, commercial and charter flights to Greek Island airports and hopefully boost tourism for the entire year.

Figures for the first three months of 2012 show an overall 6% fall in arrivals at Greek airports with the1.7 million arrivals down nearly 60,000 on last year.

The biggest fall was at Athens airport at 12%, while visitors to Rhodes from January to April fell 14% and on Kos it was 11%. The double digit drops on Rhodes and Kos are the biggest ever recorded.

There is also dismay on Zante after ferry company Agoudimos announced it is to cut services from Brindisi in Italy because of lack of demand. The Ionian islands are normally popular with Italians and Zante fears10,000 fewer Italian tourist this year.

Major tour operators are battling a drop of visitors to the Greek Island with Germany reporting bookings to Greece down 30% this year. The Germans are the world's biggest spenders on foreign holidays but many have been put off by anti-German sentiment following Greece's financial bailout.

The Greek Shipowners Union say yacht charters have also fallen sharply this year – down 30% on last season despite a huge drop in boat rental charges. Yacht charters that were costing €2,500-a-week in 2008 are now available at €1,200.

Individual islands are fighting to recover lost tourist traffic this year. In Kos, for example, island leaders are holding talks with no frills airline Ryanair to negotiate contracts for direct flights to Kos over an extended season.

Meanwhile, 2012 visitors to the Greek Islands are enjoying lower prices and less crowded beaches this year, in contrast to 2011 which saw a record 10% rise in visitor numbers to the Greek Islands.