Athens tourism untouched by quake

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NEW YORK -- In the aftermath of the earthquake that rocked the northern suburbs of Athens on Sept. 7, Greek tourism officials here and tour operators to Greece reported that residents and visitors in central Athens were mostly unaffected and that travel services continued without disruption.

The magnitude 5.9 earthquake was centered in Menidi, 12 miles north of the capital, toppling more than 100 buildings and taking the lives of more than 70 people.

While more than 2,000 people in Athens were reported injured by debris falling from buildings, the tourism infrastructure in Athens seems to have been totally spared, said George Kouros, U.S. director for the Greek National Tourist Organization.

"There was no damage to city hotels," he said, "and there is no indication of any [major] damage to archaeological monuments such as the landmark Acropolis that towers above the city."

Further, he reported that the airport is operating normally for both international flights and domestic departures to the islands, and no cruise departures were canceled.

"September is the high season in the Greek Islands, and therefore most of our clients in particular and tourists in general are out of Athens," said John Peters, president of Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises.

"We have had no cancellations of any bookings to Greece," Peters said, "although quite naturally, we have had some calls asking if Greece's quake was tied to the earlier earthquake in Turkey several weeks ago,"

The Zeus Tours executive said he felt this is an unfortunate linkage, for it "downplays the severity of the Turkish disaster," which killed more than 15,000 people.

Speaking from Athens, Spiros Divani, owner of the Divani hotel group, reported that the structure and operations of the Divani Caravel were unaffected by the earthquake and its aftermath tremors, none of which were felt in the company's new Divani Apollo, which opened this summer in a seaside resort area outside the capital.

After a strong earthquake in Athens in 1981, most buildings were built and reinforced to withstand earthquakes, said the GNTO's Kouros.

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