Air Berlin CEO Says Greece Bookings Down

March 26, 2010

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Tour operators are recording a massive drop in bookings for trips to Greece, Air Berlin's CEO said, robbing the debt-stricken Greek economy of a crucial money stream.

"In the situation with Greece, we see imponderabilities that are really getting to us," Air Berlin chief executive Joachim Hunold said after the airline published 2009 results.

"But we have not given up hope that (bookings) will return."

Britain and Germany are Greece's top tourist markets, accounting for a third of its 15 million visitors a year. Overall arrivals dropped about 8 percent last year.

Greece is battling with a EUR€300 billion euro (USD$400 billion) debt pile and is under pressure from markets and the EU to implement austerity measures.

Wildcat strikes and marches through the streets of Athens have become almost daily events in recent weeks.

Germany's tough stance on providing financial aid to Greece has strained bilateral relations.

Air Berlin flies to more than a dozen destinations in Greece, including Mykonos and Kalamata.

The company earlier said it sees its sales and profit rising this year thanks to further cost cuts and some routes it took over from TUI Travel's TUIfly.

(Reuters)