Greece’s tourism reopening signals a return to normalcy following the Covid-19 pandemic, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said on Monday.
Speaking during an Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) board of directors meeting, the tourism minister highlighted the key areas of the Greek government’s plan for the country’s tourism restart.
“Tourism, especially in our country, is not only important for economic reasons, but because it actually signals a return to normalcy. It reflects the soul of the Greeks” the minister said.
Safety is a top priority
According to Theoharis, safety for travelers, tourism professionals, and locals is a key government priority as Greece prepares to open fully to tourists on July 1 after the coronavirus outbreak.
The minister said the plan focused on four key areas which include careful selection of countries allowed access, testing to limit incidents, strict implementation of health protocols to restrict spread, and a complete action plan in place should someone be infected.
“It is our obligation to protect both our visitors and our employees,” said Theoharis outlining government measures within the “Restart Tourism” plan.
The minister also underlined the importance of stimulating domestic travel. In this direction, he said, the government was allocating 70 million euros to subsidize holidays for Greeks through social tourism programs.
Domestic travel in Greece will be supported this year through the ministry’s “Tourism for All” program, the social tourism program run by OAED and a corporate voucher program, through which the private sector will provide their employees with travel coupons for vacations.
The minister said that although domestic tourism does not bring foreign exchange to the country and does not create an increase in GDP, it will help Greek tourism businesses reopen for the season and secure jobs. “Our goal is for many businesses to open and hire as many employees as possible,” he said.
On his part, ACCI President Konstantinos Mihalos referred to the losses suffered by tourist enterprises due to cancelled reservations, but also of conference and cultural events, exhibitions, which he said were already “in the hundreds of millions, as a result of which their viability is threatened as are thousands of jobs”.
Mihalos went on to stress the crucial importance of supporting the tourism sector with interest-free working capital to cover liabilities, granting interest on loans, subsidies for employee insurance contributions, and inclusion of SMEs in EU funding programs.