The Greek prime minister has pledged to provide a one week free holiday to tourists that were forced to evacuate after the recent wildfires on the island of Rhodes.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that people would be able to take up the offer in the spring or autumn of 2024, in a bid to both reinstate trust in Greek tourism and boost off-season footfall.
At this point it is not clear how the scheme will work, the parameters for eligibility, or the way in which the week could be claimed.
Mitsotakis told ITV: “The Greek Government will offer one week of free holiday on Rhodes next spring or fall to all of those whose holiday was cut short by the forest fires.”
Wildfires smoulder on Rhodes
The Greek PM added a reassurance: "Not a single human life was lost in Rhodes, and no injuries were reported... We understand that guests have been inconvenienced, but I am happy to tell you that Rhodes is more welcoming than ever. The island is back to normal."
Mitsotakis recognised that, while wildfires have always blighted the Mediterranean, their intensity had increased “as a consequence of climate change.”
More than 20,000 people were evacuated when wildfires broke out in July.
Though the announcement may please Brits who had holidays cut short, it has infuriated parts of Greek society.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signs a document during a swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed members of the government at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece, June 27, 2023.
Locals have expressed their discontent at the announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter.
One user said: "Greeks may not get to go on vacation, but they will pay for foreigners' vacations.”
Another drew comparisons with the aid effort to Greece’s local population: "Not a single day of paid hotel for the locals, Greeks and immigrants, who lost their homes all over Greece and slept in the ruins.”
A spokesman for opposition party Syriza criticised the PM's offer to pay for evacuated tourists to come back to Rhodes, saying that "Mitsotakis thinks that he will heal the blow suffered by the image of Greek tourism by promising a week's free holiday.
A false colour satellite image, which uses the infrared signature of the fire, shows the area affected by wildfires in Rhodes, Greece, July 23, 2023.European Union/Copernicus Sentinel-2/Handout via Reuters
"A serious plan is needed for prevention and treatment. A plan that the government demonstrably does not have.”
In July, Rhodes was overrun by wildfires fanned by strong winds and exacerbated by a heatwave.
At the time, the UK did not issue any advice that prevented holidaymakers from travelling to the Greek islands.
Instead, the UK Foreign Office advised individuals to check with hotel and travel operators, as well as recommending signing up to emergency alerts.