The Greek tourist industry is reeling following the announcement on Monday by Britain’s Thomas Cook tour operating corporation has ceased all trading of shares in the company.
Approximately 50,000 tourists who had booked their holidays through Thomas Cook are now left stranded at a number of resorts across Greece.
Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis, speaking on SKAI TV on Monday, estimated that there are about 20,000 stranded tourists on the island of Crete alone.
An initial wave of 22,000 stranded travelers across Greece will be repatriated over the next three days, the minister said, adding that aircraft were expected to arrive at Zakynthos, Kos and Corfu on Monday.
Theocharis indicated that the mass repatriation of mostly-British citizens was being organized by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Theocharis stressed that the cost of the collapse could prove to be huge for the Greek tourism industry, since many contracts with hoteliers and tourist companies have not yet been paid by the travel colossus.
According to the Athens-Macedonia News Agency, almost 80 percent of hotels located on Crete have signed contracts with Thomas Cook.
“Eighty percent of the hotels in Crete cooperate to a large or small degree with Thomas Cook. The losses for tourism will be enormous. I think it could very easily be said that it would be a third world war on tourism,” warned Nikos Chalkiadakis, president of the Heraklion Hotel Association.
“The financial losses for the hotels of Crete alone are estimated in the tens of millions,” Chalkiadakis declared. As an example, he noted that the losses suffered by just one hotelier in Heraklion came to 650,000 euros when the bankruptcy was announced.
CAA announced the firm’s collapse early Monday. More than 600,000 vacationers currently have bookings through the British tourism giant.
The group’s four airlines will be grounded and its 21,000 employees across 16 countries, including more than 1,000 in Greece alone, will be left unemployed.
The debt-laden company had said on Friday that it was seeking 200 million pounds ($250 million) to avoid going bust, and that it was in talks with its shareholders and creditors to stave off bankruptcy.