Greek tourist Islands
REUTERS/GETTYMigrants are rescued from Greek holiday island Kos
Violent clashes between marauding refugees and police have seen bookings in Kos nosedive.
Greece has now become the gateway to Europe for tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war-torn Syria and Libya.
Peter Long, joint chief executive of travel operator TUI, which owns Thomson and First Choice, said: “I worry about the publicity we see in terms of putting people off going to the Greek islands.
ExpressHolidaymakers are turning their back on Greece
“We know tourism for Greece is so important, we know that their economy is fragile, and what we don’t want to see is a deteriorating situation in demand for our customers going.”
Greece accounts for around 10 per cent of TUI’s annual tour operator programme.
Around two million British tourists visit Greece each year - the most of any country - with May to September accounting for 75 per cent of its tourism.
We know tourism for Greece is so important, we know that their economy is fragile, and what we don’t want to see is a deteriorating situation
But many families have been put off their sunshine holidays after 130, 000 refugees arrived on the eastern Aegean Sea islands from nearby Turkey since January - a 750 per cent increase over the past year.
More than 7, 000 arrived on the island in last month alone – a two-fold increase on June.
Many have spent months living in makeshift camps in Turkey trying to make it to mainland Europe.
Greece is their preferred destination as fighting in Libya has made the well-trodden route from North Africa to Italy even more treacherous than before.
The migrant flood comes as riot police struggle to contain order with reports of migrants tear-gassed and beaten.
Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe said: “The developing situation on the Greek islands has shown up another dangerous gaping migration hole on the EU’s south east flank caused by Turkey’s lax visa policies.
"Previous concerns about Turkey’s abilities to monitor travellers who enter the country and pose a security risk have now given way to a realisation that for migrants headed to the EU, Turkey is becoming a cost effective alternative to Mediterranean routes.
“Huge numbers of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who want to reach Europe start by buying a plane ticket to Istanbul, getting a visa and illegally making attempts to row to Greece.
“The result is a tragic collision of migrants, tourists and local populations on the small islands of Kos and Lesbos." Clearly, these small geographies are not set up to receive tens of thousands of migrants into the EU.”