Countries like Greece which have been affected by the wildfires that swept over much of the Mediterranean region in late July are now taking stock of how much their tourism revenues have been impacted.
The wildfires necessitated the evacuation of thousands of tourists from popular destinations in southern Europe and northern Africa. For many of the locations most highly impacted, tourism is the lifeblood of the local economy.
According to estimates from the European Union, a total land area exceeding 1,350 square kilometers was devastated by wildfires in Greece, Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia in late July, impacting the lives of approximately 120,000 individuals.
Tourism to Greece and other destinations hurt by wildfires
Tourist destinations in Greece and Italy have been adversely affected by the wildfires, leading to a significant decrease in tourist arrivals. The island of Rhodes experienced a substantial number of flight cancellations, and this trend is mirrored in Sicily as well, as reported by Olivier Ponti, the Vice President of Insights at ForwardKeys, a travel data company that has access to flight information.
The areas most impacted by the wildfires in Greece in addition to Rhodes were Corfu, Evia, and Magnesia. The exact financial cost of the fires has not yet been determined but the extent of the damage is made evident by satellite imagery of the impacted areas. Moreover, the conflagrations led to the deaths of at least six people including two pilots whose plane crashed during a firefighting operation.
According to Ponti, the Greek tourism industry has been relatively resilient to the impact of the wildfires thus far, but other destinations have been less lucky. For example, he noted that the wildfires “have caused a slowdown in bookings for many Italian destinations, even places not close to the fires.”
Impact and response on Rhodes
Rhodes had anticipated a growth of eight to ten percent in international arrivals, building upon a prosperous year in 2022 during which around 2.6 million visitors journeyed to the Greek island, predominantly from the United Kingdom and Germany.
However, in the aftermath of the wildfires, flight cancellations during the final week of July surpassed the total bookings recorded in the corresponding week of 2019, as reported by Ponti.
Manolis Markopoulos, the leader of the Rhodes hotel association, remains hopeful that the resurgence of visitors to areas unaffected by the fires can help salvage a significant portion of the predicted tourism upswing.
“Every day we’re seeing more business,” Markopoulos commented. “By 8-10 August, I think we’ll be back to our normal pace at all these resorts.”
Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece will offer a week of free holidays on Rhodes to tourists who were forced to cut their stay on the island short due to the devastating wildfires.
“The Greek government, in cooperation with the local authorities, will offer a week’s free holiday in Rhodes next spring or autumn” for all those who missed it due to the fires, the Prime Minister noted, speaking on the British ITV channel.