Greece is at the top of travelers’ wish lists thanks in large part to its successful management of the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s reputation as a safe destination, but several factors are still affecting demand, said Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday – hours before Greece opens to tourists and awaiting the official list of countries allowed into the European Union.
Speaking during the Greek Tourism Debate online event, Theoharis confirmed that demand for Greece was strong but added that conditions in each country due to the coronavirus impact are bound to negatively affect travel.
“Greece is among the first choices due to its reputation as a safe destination – that’s why we are opening up gradually,” said Theoharis adding that based on airline and tour operator bookings, 50 percent of seats are still active with some budget carriers claiming even higher reservations than last year.
Theoharis reiterated the government’s four-point plan to restart tourism, which focuses on opening up to certain markets – testing – health protocols – health/medical management of Covid-19 cases.
The minister underlined that the decisions regarding countries allowed access to Greece are based on epidemiological data and progress made in flattening the curve as well as EU laws.
US Travel to Greece
For the time being, Greece will not be accepting travelers from the US or Russia, the minister said, as both countries are on the EU’s tentative list of countries not allowed into the EU. The list is expected to be finalized today.
“The list is long,” confirmed Theoharis, noting that some markets are still working to combat the virus. Health experts and officials are however regularly re-assessing data and revising decisions.
Greece – UK travel
With regard to the possibility of quarantine-free travel between the UK and Greece under the so-called “air bridges” plan, Theoharis confirmed that this has been decided but will most likely not be implemented on July 1. Instead, Theoharis said he expects travel between Greece and the UK to resume on July 15-20, giving in this way the UK time to further bring the Covid-19 crisis under control. “By mid-July, experts will be in a position to give us the green light,” he said.
With regard to testing, Theoharis said health authorities had finalized the procedure which now involves completing the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) online 48 hours before travel. Based on the data provided (country of origin, destination, flight etc), health experts will be able to evaluate who needs to be screened and target testing on individuals and destinations with assumed higher risk.
If a visitor is randomly tested at the airport, he will move on to his destination as planned but will be required to self-isolate for 24 hours until the results are out, said the minister.
In the case of a positive outcome, the traveler will be moved to a quarantine hotel and undergo treatment. It should be reminded that under the ministry’s action plan, Greece’s islands are linked with the mainland through an interconnected network of emergency health care and medical services.
Quarantine hotels & health protocols
Theoharis also referred to the designated quarantine hotels announced this week. The minister was quick to stress that hoteliers in regions or destinations where quarantine hotels have not been set up will be required to provide isolation rooms should a Covid-19 incident arise. He underlined the importance at this unprecedented time for social cohesion and responsibility.
Asked to make a projection based on data indicating that 2020 will generate less than 20-25 percent of tourism revenue or 4-5 billion euros compared to 18.15 billion euros in 2019, Theoharis said that it was not possible to predict as “we do not know which countries will be allowed to travel”.
“What I do know is that we are doing everything in our power to welcome tourists to Greece, who will visit and return home to their loved ones safely,” he said.
“This year we are investing in the year to come and the year after that,” said Theoharis.
“Greek tourism is building on its effective management of the coronavirus crisis from the very start; Greece appears to be better prepared to withstand a possible second wave which is already impacting other countries; and we will demonstrate when we open that we will again be at the forefront for the effective management of the crisis and safety of visitors and locals.”
The Greek Tourism Debate online event was organized by Tsomokos Digital in collaboration with Travelworks.