By Spiros Sideris – Athens
Bombshell from Russia in the heart of summer, since the very large Russian travel agency “Labirint” officially announced its bankruptcy from Moscow, creating huge problems for professionals in the tourism industry in Greece and abroad.
Shortly after 4 at noon on Saturday (local time), the agency announced the suspension of operations of informing its customers, who are located outside the Russian Federation that it will provide every possible assistance including their repatriation.
According to various estimates, a total of about 15,000-20,000 tourists are currently abroad, while 200,000 tourists have paid their vacation until the end of September.
“The official declaration of the suspension of Labirint activities will allow the “Turpomosch” agency to use money from the fund that exists for such an occasion, in order to raise money for the repatriation of Russian tourists”, the agency said.
According to reports in the Russian media, there were meetings in the Federal Tourism Authority of Russia between the parties involved, without however reaching a solution, while the total debt of the Russian tour operator is estimated at 1.6 billion rubles.
The main reason behind the bankruptcy are the significant financial difficulties that resulted from the shutdown of the parent company Ideal-Tour, which owns 99% of shares of in Labirint, and which is one of the oldest “players” in the greek tourism market. The debt that burdens Ideal-Tour at the moment seems to exceed EUR 31 million.
The company itself in communication refers to a variety of reasons for the negative developments, such as the reduction of the purchasing power of the Russian population due to the devaluation of the ruble, the negative political and economic situation, the prohibition of trips abroad for Russian citizens who serve in the security forces and the army, and the protracted conflict with the airline «Orenbourg Airlines», a subsidiary of Aeroflot, which starting today, stoped conducting extraordinary charter flights for the companies Ideal-Tour and Labirint, for which it has not been paid.
Ideal-Tour and Labirint are respectively the fourth and fifth Russian tourist company, which is facing serious financial problems and shuts down in the last 15 days. On July 16, the travel agency “Neva” announced the suspension of payments to its customers, several thousand of who were abroad at the time, without financial coverage for their trip, in regard to the companies that Neva was in cooperation with.
Ten days later announced its bankruptcy the old and historical company “Roza Vetrov Mir” of Moscow, and on the 30th of the same month, the Expo-Tour of St. Petersburg also confessed of having serious financial problems.
The president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, Andreas Andreades, said on the greek television network “Alpha” that the number of the agency’s Russian clients that are currently in Greece is between 8,000 and 10,000.
Andreades said that tourists should continue their stay in Greece seamlessly, pointing out that there is a specific insurance agency of the Russian government which will cover the required expenses and compensations.
The same goes for the Greek professionals of the tourist industry, to whom Andreades recommended patience and no rush actions, so as not to hurt the country’s image.