The Greek government and tourism sector on Wednesday welcomed the framework of guidelines and recommendations for tourism and transport in the EU presented by the European Commission to help member states cope in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Organizing such a common European framework has not been self-evident,” said the government’s spokesman, Stelios Petsas, adding that Greece was the first country to raise the issue of tourism in the European public debate.
“Ιn cooperation with other countries along with the European Commission, we have reached today’s framework which respects one of the four fundamental freedoms, on which the EU is built: freedom of movement for people,” he said, underlining that the aim is to gradually restore transport and tourism throughout the European Union, under common rules and conditions.
Petsas highlighted that many of Greece’s proposals have been incorporated in the package that includes proposals for health and travel protocols, for tracing apps, for common financial instruments, as well as for a pan-European campaign to promote Europe as a global tourist destination.
“The ‘principle of non-discrimination’ is the connecting link in the whole framework. Free movement between countries and regions of the European Union with similar epidemiological conditions, based on this principle and not on geographical distance or means of transport, is being facilitated,” he said.
‘In this unprecedented situation, Greece is ready’
“Greece, thanks to the rapid and effective fight against the coronavirus, is one of the countries with the lowest spread of the virus per 100,000 inhabitants. And this is a factor – among many others – in attracting tourists to visit our country.”
Petsas announced the upcoming announcement of Greece’s overall plan for tourism, however highlighting that summer 2020 will be different.
“Even in this unprecedented situation, Greece is ready. In the coming days, the government’s comprehensive plan to restart tourism will be presented, with the aim of protecting public health and supporting employment. However, we shall not have any kind of illusion. This summer is not going to be like the last one,” he said.
Speaking to BBC World on Wednesday, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said that Greece welcomes the EU’s guidelines as an important step forward.
“We as a country were the first to set this issue – the issue of tourism as an item on the European agenda – and we’re very happy that this position has gained traction leading to today’s announcements, which are very important because they try to create the framework to have a coordinated exit from this unprecedented crisis,” he said.
The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) sees the Commission’s guidelines as the “first but important step in restarting tourism”, paving the way for national decisions and intergovernmental agreements, expected in the coming weeks, in line with the health situation.
“The road to (tourism’s) restart will be long and difficult, but all together, we will do our best to reduce this year’s losses,” said SETE President Yiannis Retsos during a teleconference with the Commission’s VP Margaritis Schinas, held after the Commission’s announcement.
“Now, the launch of flights, bilateral agreements, operating protocols for tourism businesses, job support – along with the safety net for unemployment and liquidity tools – will determine what happens next: how many year-round (hotel) businesses will reopen, how many seasonal ones will open, which will be the target markets, how long the season will last and finally, how much revenue of 2019 can be salvaged,” Retsos said in a post on social media.
Hellenic Chamber of Hotels
– the importance of tourism for all European economies.
– the depth of the problems faced by all businesses in the hospitality industry.
– the immediate need to restart tourism.
“Now is the time, on the one hand, for transnational agreements and health protocols that will be realistic and applicable, and, on the other, for innovative and bold measures to support the liquidity of companies in the industry,” Vassilikos said in an announcement.