Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Wednesday said he was proud of how Greece managed to reopen to tourism, given the extremely difficult conditions due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Speaking on CNN’s show “Quest Means Business” hosted by Richard Quest, the tourism minister underlined that the plan for reopening tourism in Greece was implemented with accuracy and that targeted measures are being taken where necessary.
“When we opened our economy, obviously we expected and we expect the number of cases to go up. We are seeing a second wave in all the countries… People in the summer relax a bit more and it is understandable that the cases would rise. Our measures seem to be effective and we have taken some places off the restrictions list… It is a very difficult process and we are monitoring it daily,” he said.
Richard Quest then referred to the recent TUI flight that carried Covid-19-positive passengers from Greece to the UK, underlining that the incident proves how difficult it is for Greece to keep its tourism industry open at such a difficult period.
“We opened with very hard work and with alot of cooperation from every part of the industry and of course the public sector… We managed to open and we managed to keep the engines running. I’m very proud of that and we are going to continue to do whatever it takes to keep our people and our tourists safe,” the minister said, adding that the government will not shy away from taking difficult decisions such as banning large gatherings and closing bars at midnight in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Moreover, the minister said that the government is monitoring the economic situation and will support all enterprises and employees in the winter if necessary.
“Whatever economic hardship and problems are still there in the winter, we will have enough ‘ammunition’ in order to support employees and enterprises… We will support each and every one of them,” he stressed.
Citing UNWTO data on Greece’s drop in arrivals (-67 percent) due to the coronavirus, Richard Quest asked the Greek tourism minister what the permanent damage to the country’s tourism industry would be.
“This is a dynamic situation. Nobody knows the end date yet or when we will return to normality… But for the time being I would say that the problems up to a point are manageable. I do not see things that will destroy the value of what we have built during the past few years,” he said, adding that everything depends on how the pandemic will unfold.
Minister Theoharis also said that more coordinated action at a European level is necessary, when referring to Scotland’s recent decision to impose mandatory quarantine on travelers from Greece.
“From our point of view, the Scottish decision was harsh and we would like to know the basis of this decision,” he said, underlining that Greece is no where near the UK yardstick of 20 cases per 100,000 of population.
“We need a lot more cooperation and coordination in order to ensure that there is more stability,” he said.