It’s not been a good week…

By | Category: Travel rumblings

 

Mykonos - one of the popular Greek islands. How will it fare if tax advantages are withdrawn and VAT on accommodation goes up?

Mykonos – one of the popular Greek islands. How will it fare if tax advantages are withdrawn and VAT on accommodation goes up?

Yesterday evening the Foreign Office issued guidance that Britons should not visit Tunisia. Greece proposed doubling the rate of VAT on accommodation and volcanic clouds for the last three days affecting flights over Bali are stranding tourists there.

All in all, it hasn’t been a good week for tourism.

Who knows what will happen in Greece but the latest proposals by the Greek government to its creditors include that increase in VAT I mentioned meaning that accommodation rates could rise unless hoteliers and tour operators want to absorb the costs. Certain tax breaks for the islands may end which means that local government will have to look at ways of recouping that money. You can almost bet that visitors will face extra costs as a result. The boom in tourism visitors to Greece may waiver if these tax hikes come into being as the country will be less competitive compared to its rivals.

The second whammy is one that no-one can do anything about – volcanos. Over Indonesia, many flights have been cancelled or diverted due to the eruption of Mount Ruang which has meant that Denpasar airport in Indonesia had had flight cancellations and passengers have been forced to remain on the island. It seems unlikely that services will re-start much before Monday but tell that to Mt Ruang. Remembering the Icelandic eruption of a few years ago and how that affected flights for nearly three weeks in western Europe makes you realise that there are still things outside our planning and control.

Bali where picture postcard sunsets now have volcanic ash to contend with

Bali where picture postcard sunsets now have volcanic ash to contend with

And, in a sense, that is the problem Tunisia faces as well. After the killing of 38 people in Sousse, the Tunisian authorities beefed up security. The British Foreign Office has suggested this is not enough and has recommended all British tourists return home so extra flights have been set up starting this morning. Go independently if you will but scrutinise the small print in your travel insurance because usually most policies won’t pay out if you override Foreign Office advice.

For Tunisians this is a real blow just as summer holidays begin. There should be about 25-30,000 Brits in the country at this time of year in Sousse, Hammamet, Djerba and down in the desert yet media reports this morning suggest there are just about 3,000 there.

After the Spring revolution locals waved at tourists to thank them for returning. Now there will be fewer to wave at.

After the Spring revolution locals waved at me as a  tourist to thank us for returning. Now there will be fewer to wave at.

The Tunisian ambassador to the UK, Nabil Ammar, has said that the Foreign Office reaction is giving in to terrorism and he is right. But what can a government do when the lives its citizens are at stake? He has met David Cameron to discuss a joint approach to terrorism but what does that mean? Should we send police and ministry of defence advisors from here to advise and patrol areas of Tunisia where Britons holiday? This help would give two fingers to the terrorists and might be a better use of our international aid budget. At least it could be seen to be helping the economy of a country that is dependent for about 15% of its GDP.

On top of all this the Foreign Office has indicated that Egypt and Turkey might be vulnerable but so is Spain, France and, wait for it, the UK.

But for us average holidaymakers, this week just means that picking a “safe” holiday destination – whatever that means – is a bit more difficult.

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