Vaccinations are key to returning to normalcy which includes opening borders to tourists, said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is forecasting improved conditions in spring one day after announcing a new lockdown for the wider Athens region.
In an interview to SKAI television, Mitsotakis expressed optimism for the months ahead adding that following vaccination, when “we reach Easter in May, things will be very different and much more positive”. He attributed his confidence to the coming of spring, the restart of the economy and to the opening of tourism.
“We will have much more tourism this year than last, and we are working very systematically for this, we will finally be able to be sufficiently confident that we are leaving this ordeal behind us,” he said.
The PM explained that the recent decision to go into lockdown was a result of a spike in hospital admissions due to the virus and its new strains, which is putting pressure on the already burdened public health system.
He went to add that the containment measures will give Greece the chance to move ahead swiftly with vaccinations and at the same time control the spread of the deadly virus, preparing in this way to open to tourism in the spring.
Greece hoping for spring tourism opening
“We not only see a light at the end of the tunnel, we see the end of the tunnel,” said Mitsotakis, adding that this summer Greece will do much better than last year, adding that in 2020 Greek tourism was at 20-25 percent of its “regular” annual performance.
In this direction, the PM referred to a deal he reached this week with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowing Israeli citizens vaccinated against Covid-19 to visit Greece in March by showing the so-called ‘green passport’. The document will allow admission without quarantine or tests.
He said UK nationals will also be able to visit Greece in the spring thanks to the country’s fast and far-reaching vaccination rollout.
“Travelers from the UK can come from April, from May, once they have a certificate that they have been vaccinated. Or for those who have not been vaccinated, we will obviously request testing which is much easier this year than it was last year,” he said, adding that the tourism industry, the F&B sector, and Greek hoteliers will once again welcome visitors with the heightened protective measures.
This was also announced on Tuesday by TUI CEO Fritz Joussen, who said Greece was likely to be the first destination to reopen in view of Greek government plans to welcome visitors who provide proof of vaccination.
‘People need to travel’
Mitsotakis went on to add that people “need to travel” and come spring “they will be in a better mood, to possibly spend more money, to shop, to buy products and services that they could not buy now. And this is very important for tourism”.
“We want the Greeks to travel in Greece, we want Europeans, possibly Americans, Russians, who can and who did not come last year to come this year,” he said, stressing the importance of an agreement on a single vaccination certificate, an idea he tabled to the EU last month.
Mitsotakis went on to explain that the digital vaccination certificate would allow travellers to enter Greece without needing to quarantine or undergo additional testing.
“It is very simple,” he said. “It would be good to achieve this on a European level, to be united. If this doesn’t happen, we will proceed bilaterally with all the countries that interest us,” he said.
Mitsotakis reiterated the importance of restarting tourism, which will boost the economy and create the conditions to attract more visitors to Greece, and particularly digital nomads who can work from Greece as well as “people who will want to live here, do business here, settle here, pay their taxes here, we have great comparative advantages”.
“In an era when you can work from anywhere, why not work from Greece? Not just visit Greece, work from Greece. A safe country, with excellent connections, close to Europe, close to the Middle East, one of the first to rollout 5G technology, with a good health system, as it has demonstrated,” he said.