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Greece Examining Idea of ‘Health Passport’ to Save Tourism Season from Covid-19

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday said that if specific health protocols and common rules are in place throughout the EU, the tourism season can perhaps be partially saved this year from the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Speaking on SKAI TV, the minister referred to the so-called “health passports” that would give authorities a way to be aware of the health status of visitors entering the country by air, by boat or by car.

“Different countries have to agree on this ‘safe entry’ practice and I have urged the European Commission to have such health protocols in place,” the minister said.

According to Minister Theoharis, European citizens who want to travel to another country will have to first obtain a “health passport” at their country of origin to confirm that they are not positive for coronavirus. The citizens will therefore be eligible to travel.

While nothing has been decided at the moment, the minister said that he is waiting for feedback from the National Public Health Organization (EODY) on how exactly this could be implemented in Greece in a realistic manner.

3-month tourism season

Moreover, Minister Theoharis said that the country’s tourism season will most likely be limited to three months this year, from July to September.

“Τhere may be some demand for October and maybe even November, but this is something that we will examine at a second stage after solving the season’s main issues,” he said.

Speaking in a realistic tone, the minister said that – once restrictions are lifted and travel is allowed again – he does not expect visitors from long haul destinations like the US or Asia to come to Greece this year.

“We expect tourists from Europe and in this context our country has an advantage, as out of all Mediterranean regions we are the safest,” he said.

Minister Theoharis informed that he is in contact with leading tour operators from abroad who are interested in cooperating with Greece this season.

When Greek hotels will operate

“Tour operators are waiting to be informed on the health rules that hotels will follow, so that we can build trust with our visitors on the one hand and on the other hand to announce a clear timetable for when exactly our seasonal hotels will be in operation,” he said, adding that there is a possibility that the suspension of operation of seasonal hotels in Greece may be extended beyond April 30.

“Once a timetable for the gradual lifting of restrictions is agreed on, we will agree with EODY when exactly the hotels may operate,” Minister Theoharis added.

Regarding government support to tourism businesses that will not be able to operate and the many seasonal workers who will not be absorbed by the tourism labor market this year, the minister said that the ministry’s “task force” is already considering scenarios, which will be announced in due course.

When asked if the ministry had plans to strengthen domestic tourism this season, the minister said that incentives to attract more Greeks to the country’s summer destinations are under review and he assured that hoteliers will do their best for the Greek travelers in regards to prices.

In regards to forecasts, the minister said the the “best case scenario” for Greek tourism, after the pandemic, sees a 50 percent drop in the country’s  performance compared to last year.

In another interview later on Tuesday the minister said that Greece’s “worst case scenario” for tourism sees a 75 percent drop.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.
  1. Alexander Drankus Reply

    This is not realistic approach. Greece should go to model of: No night clubs, 50% limit in restaurants, pay for dedicated spot on beach – include social distancing layout in beaches, 50% limit for hotels, and finally require -backed by fines- PPE at all times outside of residence. Health Passport is not realistic, no country gives everyone a test nor have the ability to do so… especially for crazy travel Health Passport. Just practice safety and take everyone’s temperature all over the play. OR: just give it up and put your country “Greece” in a financial tailspin. I’m from Greece, I love it, I have family in Crete as well as property, my family and I should be able to visit, we can stay in our house and be safe but at the same time enjoy the country where my blood comes from.

  2. Gerrit, The Netherlands Reply

    To be honest, I think this approach and these thoughts sound quiet naive. Has the minister thought about how to get the tourists in Greece ? Has the minister heard about social distancing? How do we get the crowds in a plane safely and keep the 1,5 meter social distancing? People have become afraid. Travel will become hassle, time consuming, expensive and risky. What if I end up in a covid-19 contamination in a Greek hotel? Lots of people changed plans for summer and will spend their holiday locally. This encouraged by their government. Tourism in October and November in Greece? You must be kidding. A few places on Crete might do but in general this is not the right weather for tourists IF they wish and can to travel this term anyway. My guess. Best case scenario for Greece is 85 to 90 % drop in tourism is year. I hope I am wrong

  3. eleni tsokou iliokaftou Reply

    Realistically, “health passport” or not, no semblance of normality in the tourism sector can be expected if treatment for the virus and its various forms is not found effective on a broad scale and reliable spot testing with immediate results are not found. A vaccine cannot be expected for another year or so at best….. It will take alot more creativity and daring and nothing short of a miracle to have tourism anywhere in the world this year and most of next ……. even in Greece. We cannot just open our doors without all the above. Otherwise all the sacrifices of these past 2 months will go to waste and the greater population will pay for it dearly.

  4. astrid van sas Reply

    It is not a good idee because it take 2 weaks when the viruss come out so this healte passport heve no youse

  5. lee johnPaul Scott Reply


  6. Brendan Hardy Reply

    Not such a good idea. A passport or other such documents are only good at the time of issue as at any point after they could potentially contract the virus. Also I would assume each countries already over stretched medical services would need to provide this thus creating a backlog and therefor not aiding potential tourists to choose these destinations thus reducing the tourism window even further.

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