In another interesting turn of travel to Greece news, Kos Island seems to be all the bookings rage since Greece Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis announced the country’s reopening come May. This is a follow-up to my previous report on the surreal Greek pandemic response of late.
What prompted this story was news The Sun just reported that “Hotel OKU Kos is now 70 percent full for May and June due to demand.” And to be fair to TUI and other humongous travel companies, they also quoted Sunvil Group managing director Chris Wright saying holiday bookings are “closer to pre-pandemic levels”. So, what that means is, Harry Theoharis’ PR and marketing campaign seems to be working! Brits are jamming the internet servers rife for getting their vaccines and jetting off to Kos and other Greek islands.
Author Kara Godfrey goes so far as to say Greece is in an “all-out war” with other countries to lure British travelers. The strange thing is, the UK is not at all sure when the country’s travel ban will ultimately be lifted. Theoharis is announcing a season reopen May 14th, when the Brits may not even be allowed to travel until beyond May 17th. Godfrey hits the high points telling all on how travel companies are on the ropes.
What’s telling for me is the fact that TUI runs OKU Kos, and dozens of other resorts that seemingly benefit from sales campaigning. As for Sunvil Group, this prestige tours company has also been on a media outreach rampage for some weeks now. Just Google founder Noel Josephides, and then hit the “news” tab. Sunvil has dozens upon dozens of media mentions far surpassing even giant TUI group.
The reason I mention this is because one hell of a lot of pressure is being applied to the policymakers running the whole pandemic reaction. TUI is a huge pressure, but the hundreds of smaller entities are an even bigger motivator. Josephides is leading the charge at The Telegraph and elsewhere, calling for everything short of a revolution to end the tourism drought. He’s saying Brits are being held captive by Boris Johnson and the government:
“The vaccine is meant to enable us to live, not simply to prevent us from dying. If we are not given the freedom to travel, and to return without quarantine, we’re effectively imprisoned on our island.”
As a former travel PR exec, and as former managing editor at Everything PR News I can tell you, the chances of Travel Weekly UK (multiple times), Financial Mirror, Evening Standard, ABTA Magazine, The Guardian, Yahoo News UK, The Telegraph (multiple times), Metro, The Sun, Cyprus Mail, iNews, Daily Express, Travel Mole, Financial Mirror, The Portugal News, and others featuring Josephides since COVID struck, just out of the blue, is about one in a trillion. Even if he is Chairman of AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) and even though he still sits on their board and that of ABTA, nobody gets this kind of press without asking for it. But, let’s move on to our wonderful corporate friends at TUI.
A recent Forbes story puts forward five the five Greece destinations Kefalonia (TUI lists 42 hotels), Rethymno (TUI lists 17 hotels), Athens (TUI lists 6 holidays), Rhodes (TUI lists 94 holidays), and Kos (TUI lists 60 holidays). And the latest from Kathimerini tells us that:
“Crete has for the first time emerged as the favorite destination of Germans who are planning to travel abroad this year, overtaking the Balearic island of Majorca, the traditionally top choice of this particular market.”
From the Irish Sun to The Jewish Chronicle, Kos Island, and hotels run by TUI, tourism is a gigantic pressure cooker where every lever possible is not being pulled. When I think about the enormous pressure Greece’s Theoharis must be under, I almost feel sorry for the man. Take a look at the ecosystem under which Theoharis and other officials live and work. This description of the online ITB Berlin event ’Rethink, Regenerate, Restart – Tourism for a Better Normal’, gives us an idea of the power and money involved here.
But to grasp the situation fully, the reader needs to understand that Rethymno on Crete is currently a deep red COVID zone like Heraklion and Chania Prefectures of the island are. To make matters worse, the vaccine rollout for residents of Greece is just above a crawl, and the government has shifted vaccine immediacy from the big cities to Greece’s tiniest islands. Riots and demonstrations over the harsh lockdown and the government’s handling of the situation are on the rise. But UK travelers are being cajoled to book flights for a “possible” summer vacation?
According to the latest numbers, it will take another 80 days for 16% of the population of the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Infections in Greece are up almost 14% over last week’s totals. Deaths are up almost 30%! Now imagine the socio-psychological impact of a citizenry locked up for months, unable to get a scary vaccine, and being forced to play host to a throng of TUI travelers with barely enough cash on hand to buy a souvlaki! And we have this from Birmingham Live:
“Tui currently have deals for Greece Holidays from May – with packages starting from £203pp.”
Wow. Talk about islands of slaves held captive. The Greek isles will soon be invaded by the privileged (vaccinated) hordes seeking vacation bliss by the sea. Meanwhile, here in Heraklion, we are not permitted to go to the sea. I cannot wait to see how this one plays out. I’ll end up having to ask a hotel friend if I can bartend, so I can get the COVID jab.
Stay tuned, this has the markings of an epic muck up.