"We are preparing for Greece to exit euro"

Economists say if Greece left the euro a new drachma currency would fall by 50 per cent or more against the euro Keystone

Kuoni is preparing for Greece to exit the eurozone and is holding talks with local business partners, the Swiss travel group’s chief executive Peter Rothwell told SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday.

This content was published on May 13, 2012 and agencies

"Greece is a typical summer destination, and the longer we can get through the warm months without a collapse, the better," Rothwell told the German-language paper.

"Hopefully there will be a solution by next year, so that we can know what we need to do as well," Rothwell said.

The company may introduce special clauses in contracts with Greek hotels, he explained.

“Whatever the circumstances we want to pay Greek hotel owners an honest price. But we can’t take the risk of finding ourselves with contracts in euros if we pay everything in the country with a much cheaper currency,” said the CEO.

In the medium to long term a return to a cheaper currency would also have advantages for tourism, he added.

Greek hotels currently had “attractive offers”, he noted, but while reservations by Scandinavian countries were strong, Swiss reservations were “mixed” and German bookings had halted after German flags were burned in Athens.

Swiss job cuts

Rothwell said summer bookings worldwide were generally progressing well, and the Asian market was growing strongly, but the European debt crisis was a “major risk factor” for business.

Turkey, Cyprus, Italy and Spain were popular destinations for Swiss holidaymakers this year and Egypt and Tunisia were increasing in popularity.

He said the Swiss National Bank’s decision to cap the Swiss franc at SFr1.20 against the euro last September had been “extremely beneficial” giving the travel operator stability.

Despite the steadily improving situation, some 30-60 jobs in administrative positions were expected to be cut in Switzerland this year, after 60 in 2011 and 30 in 2010.

Rothwell said this was mainly due to an increased use of the internet for holiday bookings but Kuoni had “no plans to relocate” its Swiss business abroad.

Last-ditch effort

Voters furious at two
years of harsh austerity measures taken in return for international bailouts worth €240 billion last weekend rejected Greece's two formerly dominant parties, Venizelos' socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, in favour of smaller parties on the left
and right. 

Greece's president met party leaders on Sunday in a final bid to cobble together a coalition and avert a repeat election, but those efforts looked set to fail because of deep splits over an European Union/IMF rescue plan.

If the next government rejects the bailout, EU officials say that would meant the end of loans that Athens needs to stave off bankruptcy and its ejection from the euro single currency.

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In 2011 almost 1,100 Greek citizens emigrated to Switzerland, including 183 students.

Last year 434 Greeks were studying in Switzerland.

There are just under 3,400 Swiss residing in Greece – the number is falling – who are mostly dual citizens. 

Every year some 350,000 Swiss tourists visit Greece.


Some 7,200 Greek citizens are registered residents in Switzerland. 

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