Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis and his counterparts from Cyprus and Israel are examining the creation of a “safe tourism zone” in view of the fact that the three countries have managed to successfully contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s tourism ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Israel was examining the Greek initiative, which if agreed to would not go into effect at least until mid-June.
The initiative is based on the fact that Greece, Cyprus and Israel have managed to keep Covid-19 infection and death rates very low compared to other countries worldwide.
“Israel is one of our strategic targets for the re-opening of tourism in Greece. As a result, we have already started discussions and preliminary phases on how to align our hygiene standards and protocols which will allow travel to resume between the two countries. This is still early stages, but we are very hopeful that we can come to a mutual agreement,” Theoharis told the Jerusalem Post.
The “safe tourism zone” would in effect offer those less willing to travel far in the coming months a safe option while giving the chance to the economies of Greece and Cyprus, which are heavily dependent on tourism, to recover.
However, the creation of a “safe tourism zone” would require that the three countries would introduce mandatory quarantines for international arrivals in order to ensure safe travel. This however conflicts with the fact that Greece and Cyprus are both EU member states with open borders under the Schengen Treaty, which in effect allows travel from countries highly affected by the virus outbreak.
Expressing confidence that “Greece will remain safe despite opening borders and opening for tourism,” Theoharis said Greece was working to “establish requirements which will limit the possibility of someone with coronavirus entering Greece in the first place… irrespective of the epidemiological phase the country is currently in.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Greece was expecting to welcome more Israeli tourists in view of the one million travelers to Greece in 2019.
The Greek tourism minister on Tuesday said that forming diplomatic contacts to reopen borders between countries was a main part of Greece’s tourism plan towards recovery in the post-Covid-19 period.