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‘Rhodes is back!’: Greek PM offers free stay in 2024 to evacuated tourists

Tourists enjoy the beach and the sea in Lindos, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece.
Tourists enjoy the beach and the sea in Lindos, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes, southeastern Greece. Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
By Euronews Travel
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Officials and tourism bodies have said that the South Aegean island is ready to welcome tourists after wildfires.

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Greece is offering a free trip to tourists whose holidays were cut short by wildfires.

Parts of the island burned for days in July, damaging homes and hotels, with thousands forced to evacuate.

Officials have said it was the largest evacuation the country has ever seen with 20,000 people - including thousands of tourists - fleeing from the blazes.

On Wednesday (2 August) Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he recognised the inconvenience the fires had caused for visitors.

“For all those whose holiday was cut short as a result of wildfires, the Greek government in cooperation with local authorities will offer one week of free holidays on Rhodes, next spring, the next fall, so that we make sure they come back to the island and enjoy its natural beauty,” he said.

There aren’t yet any details on how the deal would work or if flights would be included but it seems as if the peak summer season will be excluded.

Mitsotakis added that, while fires weren’t uncommon on Rhodes, climate change was increasing their intensity. He also praised the hospitality of the island’s people saying they were “incredibly supportive”.

Around 2.6 million people visited Rhodes last year and Greece relies heavily on tourism which accounts for around a quarter of its gross domestic product.

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Beachgoers watch a helicopter filling water from the sea during a wildfire, near Gennadi village, on the Aegean Sea island of Rhodes.AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Is it safe to travel to Rhodes this summer?

Officials and tourism bodies have reassured travellers that the South Aegean island is now ready to welcome them back.

On Monday, the Greek Tourism Ministry said in a statement that life was returning to normal on the island.

“Rhodes is back! We are pleased to announce that the operational state of emergency has expired on the island of Rhodes,” it said.

The tourism ministry added that residents and the Greek state were “looking forward to continuing to offer their care and unique hospitality to foreign visitors”.

The Hotel Association of Rhodes has said that the island is now “fully operational, welcoming thousands of tourists daily”. It hopes that 100 per cent of accommodation will soon reopen.

An initiative to return personal items to guests who were evacuated due to the fires has also been announced with luggage being returned free of charge if the hotel they stayed at is a member of the association.

“Rhodes is coming back stronger,” regional governor of the South Aegean George Hatzimarkos said.

He added that immediate restoration projects are currently underway in the “limited” number of affected areas and tourism has swiftly returned to “business as usual”.

“We fully reassure our visitors that they can reliably enjoy the exceptional travel experiences and the authentic hospitality that beautiful Rhodes offers as a top-knotch (sic) global tourism destination.”

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