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Greece Launches "Free" Holidays For Tourists Affected By Wildfires

Greece has launched the world's first "free" holiday program to compensate tourists who were forced to flee wildfires on the island of Rhodes last July.

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After months of navigating red tape and establishing new legislation, Greece has launched the world's first program offering "free" holidays to compensate tourists who were forced to flee wildfires on the island of Rhodes last July.

"The scheme is up and running as promised," said Myron Flouris, general secretary of the Greek tourism ministry. He acknowledged the challenges of being the first country to implement such a program.

Tourists who stayed in hotels that were evacuated due to the fires will be eligible for e-vouchers worth up to €500 to cover accommodation for a week-long stay. The program will run in two phases, from now until May 31st and then again from October 1st to November 15th.

Tourism officials in Rhodes report a positive response, with over 5,000 holidaymakers already registered. "Anyone staying in areas affected by the fires is eligible," said Yannis Papavasiliou, head of the island's hotelier union. He expects participation to increase further in the fall.

The vouchers will range from €300 to €500, reflecting the amount originally paid to tour operators. The program applies only to hotels, not private accommodations.

"Greece is making good on its promise to compensate those who lost their holidays due to climate change," said Papavasiliou.

The center-right government, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced the program on British television shortly after thousands of stranded tourists were forced to cut their trips short due to the wildfires. Most of those evacuated were British citizens.

Visiting Rhodes recently, Mitsotakis acknowledged the increasing threat of wildfires due to climate change. He emphasized the prioritization of human life during the evacuation.

One British vacationer, Sara van Oostrum, plans to take advantage of the program with her partner, though her daughter remains traumatized by the experience. They were evacuated from a smoke-filled hotel and forced to relocate multiple times during the fires.

Van Oostrum expressed confusion about the program's details, including hotel availability and voucher specifics. The couple is hesitant to return to the original location but open to exploring other parts of the island.

While many British tourists visited Rhodes through tour operators like TUI and Thomas Cook, they will need to liaise directly with the Greek government to obtain their vouchers. Both tour operators have directed their customers to the Greek government for further information.