Greece braces for shutdown as austerity vote nears


Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:15am EDT

* Strike to shut down government, business

* Papandreou appeals for unity ahead of key vote

* Blow to government after deputy resigns in protest

By Harry Papachristou and James Mackenzie

ATHENS, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Greek ships were harboured and
garbage rotted in the streets of Athens on Tuesday as angry
workers built momentum for “the mother of all strikes” expected
to bring the country to a halt in protest against a new package
of tax hikes and wage cuts.

Unions representing around half of Greece’s 4 million-strong
workforce have called a 48 hour general strike for Wednesday and
Thursday to protest against a sweeping package of austerity
measures due to be passed in parliament this week.

A wave of smaller strikes over recent days by groups ranging
from rubbish collectors to tax officials, journalists and seamen
has given a foretaste of this week’s protest which will
culminate in mass demonstrations in front of parliament, the
scene of violent clashes in June.

The protest, dubbed “the mother of all strikes” by the daily
Ta Nea newspaper, is expected to be the biggest since the
financial crisis began two years ago, shutting state offices,
shops and even providers of everyday staples like bakers.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, battling to satisfy
demands from international lenders for even tougher action, has
appealed for unity, saying the package, due to be passed on
Wednesday or Thursday, must pass to allow Greece to emerge from
the crisis.

“The nation is at a crucial moment and we have to be united.
In this battle, we need everyone,” Papandreou told a cabinet
meeting late on Monday. “Everyone must assume their
responsibilities.”

“Our main goal is to end the uncertainty over the country’s
future. Because this uncertainty undermines our efforts and
sacrifices,” he said.

His struggling Socialist government, trailing badly in the
opinion polls, is being squeezed between the escalating street
protests and pressure from lenders dissatisfied with the pace of
reform.

As European Union leaders race to put the foundations of a
new rescue plan in place in time for a summit on Oct. 23, there
was growing talk of more direct intervention that would restrict
Greek sovereignty in return for more aid.

Some euro zone countries have been pressing for a European
Commission taskforce to be given direct powers to intervene in
areas such as overseeing the sale of state assets.

The Greek government declined to comment on Tuesday but any
outside taskforce would need to be ready to counter resistance
from a society deeply disillusioned with its own political
leaders but also increasingly hostile to outside intervention.

RECESSION

Late on Monday, Papandreou suffered a blow when PASOK deputy
Thomas Robopoulos resigned in protest at the cuts, although
parliamentary rules allow him to be replaced by another member
of the ruling party, leaving the government’s 4-seat majority
intact.

Two other PASOK deputies have also threatened to vote
against part of the package but, with one of the smaller
opposition parties possibly offering support, the package is
still expected to pass.

The bill includes tax hikes, wage cuts, public sector
layoffs and changes to collective bargaining rules.

It follows a series of painful austerity measures that have
so far failed to halt a steady rise in Greece’s mountainous
public debt and have been attacked by the opposition for
stifling any prospect of growth in the stricken economy.

Trapped in deep recession for the past three years, Greece
is choking on a public debt that amounts to around 162 percent
of gross domestic product and there are growing doubts that it
will be able to emerge from the crisis without defaulting.

Underlining the problems facing an economy that is already
forecast to contract 5.5 percent in 2011, data on Tuesday showed
headline unemployment rising to 16.5 percent in July, a month
when summer tourism normally boosts job numbers. Youth
unemployment was running as high as 42 percent.

An EU and IMF inspection team left Athens last week,
recommending approval of a vital 8 billion euro loan tranche but
said Greece was falling behind on its budget targets and should
move more quickly to cut spending and pass reforms.

Parliament is due to open a three-day debate later on
Tuesday, after Papandreou meets members of the ruling PASOK
parliamentary group to rally support.

He wants convincing backing for the measures in time for the
EU summit and is due to meet conservative opposition leader
Antonis Samaras in a bid to present a united front in Brussels.

However government officials have dismissed rumours that
Papandreou might renew an offer for a coalition government,
which Samaras turned down in the summer.


Protests Cost Arab Region $7B in Lost Tourism


Enlarge image

Arab Protests Send Tourists to Europe

Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

Tour operators in Germany, home to the world’s biggest spenders on international holidays, said summer bookings to the Middle East and North Africa collapsed by as much as 50 percent.

Tour operators in Germany, home to the world’s biggest spenders on international holidays, said summer bookings to the Middle East and North Africa collapsed by as much as 50 percent. Photographer: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) — British-born Shaun Mattingley talks with Bloomberg’s Jennifer Freedman about the decision to pospone his family trip to Egypt last February amid the political unrest in the country.
They spoke on Oct. 6 in Divonne, France. (Source: Bloomberg)

Shaun Mattingley began arranging a
tailor-made family holiday to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan five months
before their Feb. 19 departure, eager to show his wife and
daughter “the Egypt I had grown to love over the years.”

They never made it. With Hosni Mubarak’s regime in its
dying days, he canceled the trip two weeks before they were to
fly to Cairo and instead took his family to Spain. Unrest has
cost the Arab world billions of dollars in revenue and chipped
away at the earnings of resorts, hotels and tour companies, such
as Hannover, Germany-based TUI AG (TUI1) and Egyptian Resorts Co. (EGTS)

While the wave of popular upheavals sweeping the Arab world
holds the promise of ushering in greater prosperity and
democracy for millions of people, the unrest has undermined one
of the region’s biggest industries, leaving many economically
worse off now than they were before the protests began.

“We’ll do the trip when the elections are out of the way
and there is stability,” said Mattingley, 46, director of Delta
Community SA, an electronic trading platform in Eysins,
Switzerland, about 26 kilometers (16 miles) north of Geneva.

The Arab Spring has taken a toll on tourism in cash-
strapped nations from Jordan and Egypt to Morocco and Tunisia,
costing the region more than $7 billion, according to the Arab
Tourism Organization in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The number of
visitors to North Africa and the Middle East dropped 13 percent
and 11 percent, respectively, in the first half of 2011, said
Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World
Tourism Organization in Madrid.

Third-Largest Industry

Tourism is the world’s third-largest industry, contributing
$1.2 trillion — or 5.2 percent of the global economy — every
year. The industry is responsible for one in every 12 jobs,
Rifai said.

Of the 61 million visitors to the Middle East last year,
more than 14 million went to Egypt, whose pyramids, temples,
Nile cruises and mummies make it the top tourist destination in
the Arab world and No. 18 globally, according to the UN agency.

Egypt, which counts on foreign visitors for 16 percent of
its gross domestic product and 14 percent of jobs, lost 80
percent of revenue in the last holiday season, Tourism Minister
Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour told Jordan’s Ad Dustour newspaper on
Oct. 1. The government expects tourism revenue to fall to $10
billion this year, from $12.5 billion in 2010.

Travel agencies as well as resorts and hotels in the Middle
East are also feeling the pinch. Egyptian Resorts, a Red Sea
resorts developer, said first-half net income plunged 80
percent, while Orascom Hotels Development, the Cairo-based
unit of Switzerland’s Orascom Development Holding AG, had a
first-quarter loss of 6.1 million Egyptian pounds ($1 million)
compared with a profit of 164.2 million pounds a year earlier.

Canceled Bookings

Tour operators in Germany, home to the world’s biggest
spenders on international holidays, said summer bookings to the
Middle East and North Africa collapsed by as much as 50 percent.

TUI, Europe’s top travel company, said on Aug. 11 that its
third-quarter loss widened as the unrest crimped earnings from
France. London-based Thomas Cook Group Plc (TCG), TUI’s closest rival,
cut its profit forecast a month earlier because of the drop in
travel to North Africa during its peak season, and Kuoni Reisen
Holding AG (KUNN)
said the wave of revolts had had a “significant
negative impact on demand in the European tour-operating
business.”

“What we see right now is a slow recovery,” said Peter Brun, a spokesman for Zurich-based Kuoni. “People don’t have
confidence yet because there are elections in Egypt and they are
afraid of what will happen there, whether it will be peaceful.”

Presidential Vote

Egypt’s lower and upper houses of parliament will appoint
an assembly in late March or early April that will rewrite the
constitution. A presidential vote will take place 45 to 60 days
after the results of a constitutional referendum are announced.

Egypt’s economy shrank 4.2 percent in the first quarter as
revenue from industries including tourism plummeted. Gross
domestic product grew 1.8 percent in the fiscal year that ended
on June 30, the weakest performance in at least a decade, the
government said in September. The balance of payments in the
fiscal year recorded a $9.8 billion deficit, compared with a
surplus of $3.4 billion the previous year, and currency reserves
have dropped by a third this year.

Unrest was reignited in central Cairo on Oct. 9, when a
night of clashes between Coptic Christian protesters and the
security forces left at least 25 people dead. Egypt’s economy
has lost $9.8 from protests this year, according to economic
consultant Geopolicity Inc., which said the Arab Spring has cost
countries in the region more than $56 billion, with Libya, Syria
and Tunisia also hard hit.

Morocco, Tunisia

Morocco, the most popular African destination, derives
almost a fifth of its GDP and 17 percent of employment from
tourism, the London-based World Travel Tourism Council said.
In Tunisia, where the self-immolation of an unemployed 26-year-
old sparked a revolution that led to the ouster of President
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January, tourism accounts for 17
percent of GDP and more than 15 percent of jobs.

Tourism revenue in Tunisia has plunged 50 percent this
year, central bank Governor Mustapha Kamel Nabli said on Sept.
21. Tunisia’s current-account deficit, the broadest measure of
trade, will widen to $2.8 billion this year from $2.1 billion in
2010, while Morocco’s will grow to $5.3 billion from $3.9
billion last year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The loss of income from tourists has hurt millions of
people in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan — a region where
20 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the
World Bank — and situation may not improve any time soon.
Egypt’s Tourism Ministry said it’s unable to predict when
foreign visitors will return.

‘For the Better’

“We’ll probably starve for a while, since tips from
tourists are my family’s only source of income,” Ahmed, a tour
guide in the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor, said in February, less
than two weeks after protests toppled Mubarak. “This may even
go on for a whole year, but we don’t care. It’s for the better,
and for the future of my baby girl.”

In Jordan, which has enjoyed relative calm compared with
other Arab nations, tourism revenue dropped 12 percent in the
first half of 2011 from a year earlier as travelers put off
trips to see the ancient ruins at Petra, with its spectacular
temples and tombs hewn from rose-colored rock that were featured
in the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and the
windswept peak of Mount Nebo, where according to ancient
tradition, Moses was given a view of the promised land.

Tourism contributes 14 percent to Jordan’s economy and,
along with remittances from nationals working abroad, is the top
source of hard currency in the kingdom of 6.5 million people.

Syrian Instability

International arrivals in Lebanon fell 24 percent in the
first eight months of 2011 as instability in neighboring Syria
deterred visitors who journey by car through the only open
Lebanese border crossing. Lebanon relies on tourism for almost
34 percent of its GDP and 32 percent of jobs, according to the
World Travel Tourism Council.

The drop in tourism in the Arab world has been good news
for struggling European economies, which need every fillip they
can get. Foreign visitors have flocked this year to Greece and
Portugal, both recipients of international bailouts, as well as
to Spain and Turkey.

Israeli tourism held up during the unrest elsewhere in the
region, though there were cancellations among travelers who had
booked packaged tours that combined Israel with stops in Egypt
and Jordan.

The number of foreigners who journeyed to Spain hit a
record 7.64 million in August, the government said, while data
from Portugal show its hotel revenue climbed 12.5 percent in
July. The number of travelers to Israel who stayed more than one
night rose 3 percent to 2.1 million in the first nine months.

‘Great’ for Turkey

Foreign tourist arrivals in Turkey jumped an average of 20
percent in the first four months of the year and reached a
record 4.6 million in July, according to figures from the
Ankara-based Tourism Ministry.

“We have had a great season and it looks as if it’s going
to prove a longer season, too, perhaps extending into
November,” said Secim Aydin, deputy president of the Turkish
Hotels Federation. “The Arab Spring has hit the whole region,
but Turkey’s stability and safety have drawn in more visitors.”

Spending by visitors to Greece, which is grappling with its
own domestic unrest as the government tries to stave off a
default, climbed more than 14 percent in the first seven months
of 2011, making tourism the nation’s most productive industry.
Tourism accounts for almost 16 percent of Greece’s output and
about one in five jobs, the World Travel Tourism Council said.

“The Arab Spring contributed to a rise in tourists coming
to Greece this year,” Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos said in an interview in Athens. “We’re looking at 2
percent to 3 percent of the growth over last year to be a direct
result of the Arab Spring. The challenge is to continue this
growth for the future.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Hertling at
[email protected]


All About Europe

LONDON, October 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —

Luxury holidays [http://www.coxandkings.co.uk ] operator, Cox Kings, has seen a huge demand for its European Journeys this year and its new Europe brochure for 2012, builds on this trend by featuring new luxury group tours to Greece, Poland and Germany, a new river cruise in Russia, private gulets in Turkey and private journeys in Norway featuring the county´s rail network and cruise options.

Cox Kings´ Europe Product Manager, Michael Fleetwood, says: “Cox Kings´ European programme is expanding and diversifying every year, and we are very excited to launch group tours to destinations new for Cox Kings as well developing our offering in more established destinations. The private gulet cruises offer an alternative way to explore the Turkish Riviera and are perfect for a family or group of friends to book as they provide maximum flexibility in allowing stops to be made when and where clients want along a chosen itinerary.”

ESCORTED TOURS

NEW: SPLENDOURS OF POLAND This new 9-day tour includes three nights in Krakow´s stunning old town as well as exploring the architecture and attractions of Poznan, Wroclaw and Warsaw. Visits are also included to Auschwitz-Birkenau and to the Oskar Schindler factory in Krakow. The tour is priced from GBP1,295 per person and includes flights with LOT Polish Airlines from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

NEW: JOURNEY THROUGH ANCIENT GREECE Incorporating the classic highlights of Olympia, Delphi, Mycenae and Epidaurus, this new 8-day tour also includes Greece´s magnificent scenery and the man-made wonders of the Corinth canal and monasteries of Meteora. The tour is priced from GBP1,155 per person and includes flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

NEW: HEIDELBURG TO HAMBURG Starting in Heidelburg, the centre of the Romantik epoch, this 9-day tour travels through Bavaria, Saxony and Brandenburg and finishes in Hamburg, visiting many of Germany´s most important cultural and historic attractions. Priced from GBP1,595 per person, the tour includes flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

TRAINS

NEW: DANUBE EXPRESS Focusing on the cultural and heritage highlights of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Turkey, a trip on the Danube Express explores the region´s most important attractions including Veliko Turnovo, Bran Castle, Sighisoara and Istanbul. An 8-day trip, including three nights on board the train and accommodation in Budapest and Istanbul, is priced from GBP4,435 per person including flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily and full board on the train.

NEW: NORWEGIAN HIGHLIGHTS Combining some of its most beautiful natural attractions, mountains, fjords and waterfalls, this private tour is a superb way of experiencing Norway and travels on two of the world´s most picturesque railways: the Bergen and the Flam. Priced from GBP985 per person, the tour includes flights with SAS, transfers, train travel and accommodation with breakfast daily.

CRUISES

NEW: THE IMPERIAL WATERWAYS OF RUSSIA Following on from the success of the Volga Dream cruise, Cox Kings has introduced a new cruise vessel into its portfolio of Russian river cruises. The MS AmaKatarina began operating in 2011 and has 106 outside cabins, 76 of which feature balconies. Along with the main restaurant, there is a second smaller and more intimate dining room. Travelling on the Volga river is considered to be one of the best ways of viewing rural and traditional Russia. The 12-day cruise is priced from GBP2,910 per person and includes flights with British Airways, transfers, excursions and full board accommodation.

NEW: GULET CRUISES Travelling on a fully crewed traditional Turkish fishing boat on a private basis is a superb way to see the natural and historical attractions of the Turkish Riviera, more than1,400 km of stunning coastline in the south west of Turkey. Prices are from GBP3,245 per person based on two people sharing and full board accommodation throughout. However, many vessels will be able to sleep between six and eight passengers so are a perfect option for a family or group of friends to share and reduce the costs.

Please see the tailor-made holidays Europe [http://www.coxandkings.co.uk/europe ] section for the full programme.

Cox Kings


All About Europe – Cox & Kings Launches 2012 Europe Brochure With new Group …


Click to view news release full screen



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LONDON, October 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —

Luxury holidays operator, Cox Kings, has seen a huge demand for its European Journeys this year and its new Europe brochure for 2012, builds on this trend by featuring new luxury group tours to Greece, Poland and Germany, a new river cruise in Russia, private gulets in Turkey and private journeys in Norway featuring the county’s rail network and cruise options.

Cox Kings’ Europe Product Manager, Michael Fleetwood, says: “Cox Kings’ European programme is expanding and diversifying every year, and we are very excited to launch group tours to destinations new for Cox Kings as well developing our offering in more established destinations. The private gulet cruises offer an alternative way to explore the Turkish Riviera and are perfect for a family or group of friends to book as they provide maximum flexibility in allowing stops to be made when and where clients want along a chosen itinerary.”

ESCORTED TOURS

NEW: SPLENDOURS OF POLAND This new 9-day tour includes three nights in Krakow’s stunning old town as well as exploring the architecture and attractions of Poznan, Wroclaw and Warsaw. Visits are also included to Auschwitz-Birkenau and to the Oskar Schindler factory in Krakow. The tour is priced from £1,295 per person and includes flights with LOT Polish Airlines from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

NEW: JOURNEY THROUGH ANCIENT GREECE Incorporating the classic highlights of Olympia, Delphi, Mycenae and Epidaurus, this new 8-day tour also includes Greece’s magnificent scenery and the man-made wonders of the Corinth canal and monasteries of Meteora. The tour is priced from £1,155 per person and includes flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

NEW: HEIDELBURG TO HAMBURG Starting in Heidelburg, the centre of the Romantik epoch, this 9-day tour travels through Bavaria, Saxony and Brandenburg and finishes in Hamburg, visiting many of Germany’s most important cultural and historic attractions. Priced from £1,595 per person, the tour includes flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily.

TRAINS

NEW: DANUBE EXPRESS Focusing on the cultural and heritage highlights of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Turkey, a trip on the Danube Express explores the region’s most important attractions including Veliko Turnovo, Bran Castle, Sighisoara and Istanbul. An 8-day trip, including three nights on board the train and accommodation in Budapest and Istanbul, is priced from £4,435 per person including flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily and full board on the train.

NEW: NORWEGIAN HIGHLIGHTS Combining some of its most beautiful natural attractions, mountains, fjords and waterfalls, this private tour is a superb way of experiencing Norway and travels on two of the world’s most picturesque railways: the Bergen and the Flam. Priced from £985 per person, the tour includes flights with SAS, transfers, train travel and accommodation with breakfast daily.

CRUISES

NEW: THE IMPERIAL WATERWAYS OF RUSSIA Following on from the success of the Volga Dream cruise, Cox Kings has introduced a new cruise vessel into its portfolio of Russian river cruises. The MS AmaKatarina began operating in 2011 and has 106 outside cabins, 76 of which feature balconies. Along with the main restaurant, there is a second smaller and more intimate dining room. Travelling on the Volga river is considered to be one of the best ways of viewing rural and traditional Russia. The 12-day cruise is priced from £2,910 per person and includes flights with British Airways, transfers, excursions and full board accommodation.

NEW: GULET CRUISES Travelling on a fully crewed traditional Turkish fishing boat on a private basis is a superb way to see the natural and historical attractions of the Turkish Riviera, more than1,400 km of stunning coastline in the south west of Turkey. Prices are from £3,245 per person based on two people sharing and full board accommodation throughout. However, many vessels will be able to sleep between six and eight passengers so are a perfect option for a family or group of friends to share and reduce the costs.

Please see the tailor-made holidays Europe section for the full programme.

SOURCE Cox Kings

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