Greece offers free holiday to tourists who fled Rhodes fires

Prime Minister says offer is open to the 30,000 holidaymakers who were evacuated due to historic wildfires

An area ravaged by wildfire next to a hotel on the coastline in Lardos, Rhodes, Greece. Getty Images
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Tourists who had to flee wildfires on Greece's Rhodes island can return for a free week next year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview on Wednesday, as the country attempts to convince visitors to return.

The blaze broke out on July 18 in central Rhodes and, fanned by strong winds, the flames spread to the eastern and southern coasts, where there are many beach resorts.

Tens of thousands of visitors and locals fled hotels and villages on Rhodes in what was described as the largest peacetime evacuation undertaken in the country.

Mr Mitsotakis told Britain's ITV that the wildfire, which affected 15 per cent of Rhodes, is now under control but said authorities “understand that it caused some inconvenience for visitors”.

“For all those whose holiday was cut short as a result of wildfires, the Greek government, in co-operation 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.

The fires killed at least five people in Greece and scorched nearly 50,000 hectares, according to the Athens Observatory.

Travel company TUI and Britain's low-cost Jet2 suspended passenger flights to Rhodes, flying in empty planes to evacuate tourists.

Greek travel agents have launched a “Rhodes is safe” campaign to lure holidaymakers back.

“Rhodes today is more welcoming than ever – the island is back to normal,” the Prime Minister said.

TUI resumed flights to the island last week.

For more than 10 days last month, Greece sweltered under what some experts called its longest July heatwave in decades.

Temperatures hit 46°C but have since dropped.

Updated: August 02, 2023, 2:41 PM