The suspension of tourist services for Mouzenidis Travel Greece turned into a new wave of problems for the Russian tourist business. From the end of June, the company could cancel tours for 1 billion rubles. So far, these are mainly trips planned even before the COVID-19 pandemic, for which it is not always possible to obtain a refund or provide an alternative. In any case, Russian structures will have to bear responsibility to clients, lawyers warn.
Since the end of June, due to the problems of the host company Mouzenidis Travel Greece, Russian tours for about € 12 million (about 1 billion rubles) have been canceled, a source in the tourist market told Kommersant. According to him, with an average booking cost of € 700, we can talk about about 17 thousand tours.
But not all tourists manage to get their money back. According to the agents, the operators unilaterally cancel the planned trips and do not offer travelers a clear alternative, arguing that the work of the host company is suspended. Some agents are thinking about filing applications in court, for others the status of the tours for the fall remains unclear.
The suspension of tourist services for Mouzenidis Travel Greece was announced on 17 June. Initially, the pause was supposed to last until June 26 and was due to technical and legal difficulties. But in the end, the reception of guests is limited until July 31st. The Russian structure of the holding – the tour operator Mouzenidis Travel – continued to work. The company representative did not answer the call.
The Mouzenidis Group is in the process of a change of leadership and reorganization. At the end of March, due to heart problems that arose after the postponed COVID-19, its founder and main owner Boris Mouzenidis died. Its assets also included Ellinair and the Greek hotel chain Bomo. Russian tourists were supposed to go to Greece on Ellinair’s flights. The company has the right to fly, but they do not operate.
The interlocutor of Kommersant in the tourism market explains that the problems that are currently arising relate mainly to tours that were postponed from 2020, which were booked before the introduction of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Russian companies transferred the funds for them to Mouzenidis, it is now impossible to receive them.
If a tourist had booked a package tour with a flight on Ellinair before the pandemic, we cannot simply transfer it to an Aeroflot or Aegean flight, they are significantly more expensive, this is an incomparable product, the Kommersant source explains. According to him, tourists are offered the opportunity to go to Greece with a surcharge or continue to postpone the trip. Intourist told Kommersant that the tour operator now has other partners in Greece.
The head of the Persona Grata agency, Georgy Mokhov, explains that the obligations to tourists in this situation are fully borne by the Russian tour operators with whom contracts were concluded, they can return funds or provide a service. According to him, the problems of the receiving company do not affect this in any way. But Mouzenidis was the host company of almost all Russian tour operators, and they are unlikely to be able to return money from deposits in the near future, adds Mr. Mokhov. According to the government’s decision, tour operators must fulfill their obligations to tourists who booked holidays before the pandemic by the end of 2021. Mr. Mokhov points out that the tourism business has almost no reserves: for a year and a half, its work is significantly limited, and it is unlikely that the situation will greatly improve by the end of the year.
Kommersant’s interlocutors in the tourism market suggest that by suspending its activities, Mouzenidis is trying to get financial support from the Greek authorities. Tour operator Thomas Cook followed a similar path in 2019, which before the collapse was actively negotiating with potential investors and authorities. But Mouzenidis has a chance of success, since the tourism industry is of great importance for Greece, a Kommersant source says. At the end of June, the Greek portal EMEA Business Voice announced the interest of the owner of the Agrokom group, Ivan Savvidi, in Mouzenidis. The representative of the businessman told Kommersant that so far it is only about the assumptions of the media.