Travel News

Rhodes ‘free holiday’ scheme: how does it work?

Simon Calder’s Travel

In late July 2023, at the height of the tourist season in the Greek islands, wildfires swept across part of the isle of Rhodes – triggering the evacuation of at least 20,000 tourists.

Within days, the Greek prime minister promised people who had cut short their trips would be offered “one week of free holidays on Rhodes next spring and next fall”.

Details have finally emerged of how the scheme will work – and, as expected, some significant terms and conditions applied.

These are the details.

Remind me what happened?

Wildfires broke out in the mountainous centre of Rhodes in the second half of July 2023, and spread to the east coast resorts – aided by winds, very high temperatures and dry conditions.

Thousands of holidaymakers were forced to flee resorts on Saturday 22 July, with some British tourists describing “terrifying” scenes of turmoil as power cuts caused “chaos” on the island.

The islanders did all they could to help stranded tourists. Many overseas visitors were placed in emergency shelters set up in schools and other public buildings, and flown back early in an airlift. More than 20,000 tourists were flown home early on evacuation flights

What did the Greek prime minister say, exactly?

Soon afterwards Kyriakos Mitsotakis told British television viewers: “The island is perfectly back to normal.”

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

But details have been extremely hard to come by until this week, when the Greek government set up a website telling travellers about “Rodos Week”. This is not a specific week, but entitlement to a week’s worth of accommodation.

Who qualifies?

“All adult individuals, regardless of nationality, who were staying in hotels evacuated during the wildfires on the island of Rhodes in July 2023” are entitled to a voucher for accommodation.

People who ended holidays early may already have been included in the “Registry of Beneficiaries” compiled by the tourism authorities in Rhodes. If not they can apply for inclusion. The claim will be checked against hotel records.

What do they get –…

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