Greek crisis intensifies: Tourists begin to worry

What Greece is like for tourists
What Greece is like for tourists   

Tourists are starting to worry about Greece's economic crisis—a sign that the country's tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of GDP, could experience a slowdown if the financial situation worsens.

But visitors shouldn't necessarily cancel their plans, according to travel experts.

"A lot of people are very nervous," said Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's and co-host of "The Travel Show," a national radio show. "The currency issue is a real one."

Multiple travel companies said that a wave of people calling with concerns about traveling to Greece started last week after the country's debt talks with European leaders stopped.

But most travelers still went.

"We actually didn't have one cancellation, and everyone who traveled said they had an excellent time," said Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president and co-owner of Valerie Wilson Travel, which saw a number of its clients call in last week expressing concern.

Over the weekend, Greece voted in a referendum to reject the current proposed bailout measures.

Damian McCabe, CEO of McCabe World Travel, said most travelers are waiting to see if the situation in Greece improves or worsens before making any decisions on whether to cancel their trips booked for later in the summer.

"I will say that we have not had any further new requests to go to Greece since the news broke that the Greek government might not accept the EU's deal," noted McCabe.

Tourists arrive at the airport on the island of Crete, Greece, July 6, 2015.
Stefanos Rapanis | Reuters
Tourists arrive at the airport on the island of Crete, Greece, July 6, 2015.

For now, going to Greece is still a fine travel decision, experts said.

"Greece has been in turmoil for a couple of years now, and tourists have never gotten harmed," said Frommer. Greeks continue to welcome tourists, she added.

The U.S. Department of State does not have any current travel alerts or advisories on its website.

The main piece of advice? Bring extra cash and store the euros in a hotel safe.

"Visitors to Greece should be aware of possible banking service disruptions and should bring extra euros and more than one means of payment," the U.K. government said on its website. Greek banks have been closed for more than a week to avoid a massive outflow of money that could lead to their collapse.

Gretel Dennis, a property consultant based in London who visited the Greek island of Corfu earlier this week, said that the island felt safe and removed from the economic tension in Athens.

But she added, carrying "euros was a must and the smaller denomination you had, the more likely you were to be served."

Tourists should also book as much of their plans before arriving in Greece in order to lock down their expenses beforehand and take advantage of a historically good U.S. dollar to euro exchange rate, according to Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of BudgetTravel.com.

Getting money to Greece
Getting money to Greece   

Experts say buying travel insurance is also an option.

"Cancel for any reason policies," as they are referred to in the tourism industry, go beyond typical insurance policies and usually cover up to 75 percent of a trip's cost.

"For example, a comprehensive travel insurance plan available at InsureMyTrip with the cancel for any reason benefit included might cost around $275 for a spur-of-the-moment, two-week trip to Greece for one adult that costs $5,500," said Jim Grace, CEO of InsureMyTrip.com, in an email.

Valerie Wilson Travel's Wetty said that she thinks travel insurance is always a good idea.

"You may have sticker shock when you see the price of however much the [cancel for any reason] insurance costs, but it gives you complete peace of mind that your money is protected if you decide to cancel," she said.

Greece's contagion factor
Greece's contagion factor   

The Greek crisis hasn't deterred Shop Latitude, a fashion and travel e-commerce site for women, from holding a "Magical Mykonos Sweepstakes." The contest for a trip to Greece opened in late June and will run through July 13.

"We are promoting Greek design and tourism to Greece, but given the current climate, we wanted to give the sweepstakes winner the option to travel at a later date," said Aly DeMartino, buyer at Shop Latitude.

Traveling to Greece during a time of economic uncertainty could mean a more interesting and meaningful trip, some said.

"Embrace being there during a really historic time. People always look at these things and worry about the potential dangers, but often when you go to a place at a historic juncture, you have experiences and you make connections with the people that can be very special," said Frommer.