Over 100 thousand tourists can not leave Greece
01. August 2010. | 09:47 16:17
The situation was improving on Saturday in the main cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, but shortages were still reported on many holiday islands and destinations in northern Greece. The fuel shortage was discouraging tourists from neighbouring Bulgaria, FYRMacedonia, Romania and Serbia from driving to Greece.Greek truckers were to debate Sunday whether to continue a week-long strike.
Resorts in Northern Greece due to strike carriers were almost completely surrounded. For the fourth day here and not imported food, at the gas station no gasoline. Because of this, more than a hundred thousand tourists from Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, FYRMacedonia, like the Greeks from other regions of the country, unable to return home to their cars.
Some vacationers prolong their stay in hotels, others are forced to sleep in cars. Hotel owners are complaining that in recent days canceled, and several thousand reserves. Only hotels in Piraeus since the beginning of the outgoing week did not come 25 thousand tourists.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria officially recommended citizens leave for a vacation or business trip to Greece, private transport, petrol filling up full tank cars and take an additional canister.
Greek authorities struggled to restore fuel supplies on Saturday after failing to break a six-day trucker strike that has disrupted travel at the peak of the busy tourism season.
Military trucks and petrol company vehicles were employed to alleviate the fuel shortage as over 30,000 lorry and tanker truck operators sat out a government requisition order to return to work on pain of prosecution.
Officials said the situation was improving in the main cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, but shortages were still reported on many holiday islands and destinations in northern Greece where thousands of tourists are stranded.
“The situation is slowly returning to normal. More than 250 petrol stations in Athens and more than 70 in Thessaloniki are so far fully supplied. Some truckers are returning to work, joining oil company lorries to relieve the shortage,” said a Transport Ministry official who declined to be named.“The navy is helping out with supplies to the islands, we expect the situation will be much improved by Monday,” he said.
"If the trucks are able to load at refineries during the weekend a measure of supply should be restored by Monday," the chairman of Greek petrol station owners' federation Michalis Kiousis told Flash Radio.
Police units were escorting trucks to refineries to prevent interference from strikers.
Five people including a police officer were injured on Thursday in a clash between striking truckers and riot police outside a refinery near Thessaloniki, northern Greece, the Athens News Agency reported.
Military trucks are resupplying critical sectors such as airports, electricity plants and hospitals, the government said.
A broad range of businesses from tourism car rentals to fruit growers have been badly hit by the protest which began on Sunday against plans by the government to liberalise the tightly-controlled freight sector.
But authorities warn that the greatest damage has been caused to the vital tourism industry which accounts for nearly a fifth of the recession-hit Greek economy, with thousands of travellers stranded by the protest and booking cancellations mounting.
"The period to August 15 is the heart of the tourism season and an entire week has now been lost," the head of the Greek trade association Vassilis Korkidis told Net television.
"Gas stations have dried up," senior gas station unionist Dimitris Makryvelios told the broadcaster. "Nobody is going to risk travelling if the market is not stabilised."
Reports poured in of foreign holidaymakers abandoning their immobilised rented cars while motorists in northern Greece have tried to bypass the deadlock by seeking fuel in neighbouring Bulgaria and Macedonia.
The protest has also badly hit the peach industry, a staple Greek export, with over a dozen canneries shutting down for lack of fuel, the head of Greece's cannery association said.
"The harvest and processing of peaches only lasts a few days and this is peak season for us," association chairman Costas Apostolou told the Ta Nea newspaper.
"This is a disaster," he added, noting that over 35 tonnes of peaches worth around 20 million euros had to be destroyed.
"The present situation is turning into a disaster for the country, the economy and tourism," the association of Greek tourism entreprises (SETE) said in a statement this week.
The fuel shortage was discouraging tourists from neighbouring Bulgaria, FYRMacedonia, Romania and Serbia from driving to Greece, SETE added.
Before the fuel trouble struck, Greek hotels faced a three-percent fall in bookings and a drop in proceeds of 10-12 percent, Andreadis said.
"A fall of one percent in tourism proceeds corresponds to 200 million euros in lost income for the country and 1,000 job losses," he told Flash Radio.
"And this is the worst showing in Europe, all our competitors including eurozone countries such as Spain and Portugal have increased their proceeds this year."
Greek truckers were to debate Sunday whether to continue a week-long strike.The breakthrough came late on Saturday after the government said it would lift a civil mobilisation order -- which the strikers had mostly ignored -- if the truckers closed down their protest against a freight sector reform.
"The strike is what brought brought the mobilisation... We will hold talks if the strike ends, followed by the lifting of the civil mobilisation," Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas told Mega television.
But he said that the government would not tolerate a new strike and would carry through a liberalisation of the tightly-controlled freight sector which it says is keeping transport services exorbitantly high.