NEW YORK -- The bombing of the Athenaeum Inter-Continental Athens
hotel by a group protesting NATO's air campaign in the Balkans
appears to be the first Kosovo-related attack on tourism.
The April 27 bombing of the hotel killed a woman and injured a
man, both Greek citizens, Athens police said.
A leftist group that claimed responsibility sent a letter to an
Athens newspaper saying that the bombing was "an answer to NATO's
raid in the Balkans."
Athens police said the device, a time bomb, was placed at one of
the hotel's entrances and exploded while the hotel was being
evacuated after an anonymous caller phoned in a warning. The caller
identified himself as a member of the leftist group Revolutionary
Part of the hotel's ground floor suffered substantial damage,
but a statement from Inter-Continental April 28 said the property
was "open and fully operational." Inter-Continental said the bomb
exploded on a street adjacent to a garden area outside of the
Following the attack, anonymous hoax calls claimed that more
bombs were set to go off at other hotels, including the Athens
Hilton, which was evacuated. A spokesman for Princess Cruises said
40 of the line's passengers staying at the Hilton that night were
routed from their beds and evacuated from the property.
The line's Pacific Princess had arrived in Piraeus, the port for
Athens, on the day of the bomb attack. "We are satisfied that the
call was a hoax, pure and simple," a spokesman at Hilton's Beverly
Hills, Calif., headquarters said.
Rick James, Princess Cruises' senior vice president, said the
cruise line uses "practically all of the major Athens hotels --
including the Inter-Continental and the Hilton -- at one time or
another, depending on demand."
The line's Royal Princess is due to end one voyage and begin
another in Piraeus this week, and James said there were no
immediate plans to adjust the ship's itinerary. "We will be guided
by what [our] government security people tell us. We feel very
confident that our passengers and our ships are safe," James
Silversea Cruises executives said they were meeting to decide
what to do with 10 cruises scheduled to turn around in Athens this
year. The Silver Cloud is the first of the line's luxury ships to
be affected, with a cruise termination there May 4, followed by
nine others, all on the Silver Wind, between May and early
Renaissance Cruises switched passengers booked at the
Inter-Continental to other Athens properties, according to a
Renaissance reservations agent. The line operates the 800-passenger
R1 from Piraeus for Greek Island cruises yearround, with land
packages featuring two or three nights each in Athens and Istanbul,
A spokesman at the Greek National Tourist Office in New York
would say only that tourist authorities were considering the attack
an isolated incident.
But one New York travel agency's corporate client decided not to
bank on that. Marie Magliano, owner of Uniglobe At Best Travel,
told Travel Weekly she had about 40 clients from her largest
corporate account set to attend the company's global meeting in
The meeting was to begin May 3 at the Inter-Continental, but the
company decided to move the meeting to Paris, Magliano said. "It's
scary to think about," the agent said. "And a lot of those
travelers were bringing wives and families to Athens with them. I
wouldn't travel in that part of the world right now," Magliano
Chris Myers, owner of Houston-based Tickets & Tours, said he
expects travelers, particularly leisure clients, to steer clear of
the area for a while. "Like it or not, the fact is we have a war
going on and that is going to greatly affect travel to not only
Greece, but Europe as well," Myers said.
Major tour operators to Greece, including the New York-based
firms Tourlite International and Zeus Tours, reported no
cancellations as a result of the hotel bombing.
However, Cally Pantelldis, president of Cloud Tours in New York,
said two clients who were already booked called her office with
concerns. "So that they would be more comfortable, we suggested
that they skip their two nights in Athens and go straight to the
islands, and that is what they are doing," she said.
Pantelldis agreed with other tour operators to Greece that
overall business is slower due to NATO's military actions.
Ernest Blum, Jerry Brown, Grant Flowers, Carla Hunt, Joseph
Kornik and Dinah A. Spritzer contributed to this report, which was
written by Donna Tunney.