Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday said he expects Greece this year to welcome twice as many tourists from abroad than it did in 2020.
Speaking to German daily Bild, Mitsotakis said that he expects to see a “normal summer” during Greece’s high tourism season in July and August as by then more of the country’s residents will be vaccinated and some measures still in force to curb the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) will – most likely – have eased.
“Last year we welcomed 25 percent of the tourists that came to our country in 2019… This year we expect to move from 25 percent to 50 percent compared to 2019. I believe that the trends are encouraging,” he said.
As Germany is traditionally one of Greece’s key source markets, during the interview, the Greek PM invited the Germans to visit Greece.
“I know that many Germans want to travel to the South. Greece has always been a favorite destination of theirs and we encourage them to consider visiting Greece for their summer vacation,” he said, adding that besides Athens with the Acropolis, Greece has a number of beautiful and safe destinations, such as its islands.
Health safety is a priority
The Greek PM referred to the country’s “Blue Freedom” vaccination plan, which sees to accelerate the vaccination against Covid-19 of island residents.
Underlining that Greece is aiming to ensure the safety of both residents and tourists, Mitsotakis told Bild that German citizens planning to visit the Greek islands should know that the government has decided to vaccinate all of their residents (with the single-dose J&J vaccine) at a faster pace than mainland residents.
“German tourists should know this… We started on the smaller islands and now we are moving to the larger islands,” he said, adding that he expects the rate of vaccinations to increase next week.
Some restrictions still in place
Bild’s journalists also wondered when Greece was planning to ease more of its restrictions, such as its night-time curfew (between 00:30 am and 05:00 am) and ban on music in restaurants and cafes.
Referring to the ban on music, the Greek PM said that the government is waiting for the health experts to advise on the matter.
According to health experts, when music is playing in a space, customers are forced to speak louder, an action which can produce enough droplets to transmit the coronavirus to those around them.
The Greek PM did say that he expects the restrictions to have eased during the high season as more people will have been vaccinated.
Earlier this week, Greece passed the 5 million mark with at least 3.2 million people already having received at least one dose of the vaccine against the coronavirus. It should be mentioned that Greece moved up six spots in May on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking which reports on the best places to be during Covid-19 and the effectiveness of local authorities’ health crisis management.
“Τhe reason we still have some restrictions is because we want people to feel safe,” he added.
Other restrictions still in force in Greece include a limit to the number of people allowed in a taxi (only two people plus the driver) and the rule of wearings masks everywhere.
When asked how long Greece will keep mask wearing mandatory, Mitsotakis again said that it depends on what the experts will say.
“I expect that the masks will definitely be kept indoors (for some time). When it comes to outdoors, when you eat in a restaurant you do not have to wear a mask. This should be clear. You have your mask, you enter the restaurant and then take it off,” he said.
EU Digital COVID Certificate
The journalists also touched on the EU’s delay in launching the Digital COVID Certificate, which is expected to facilitate travel and support the restart of Europe’s tourism sector.
Greece is among the countries that are technically ready to implement the certificate system and intends to do so as of early June. However, the EU expects to launch the EU Digital COVID Certificate by early July.
When asked if the delay in the rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate on an EU level will cause problems to Greek tourism, Mitsotakis said that if people want to travel to Greece right now, they can.
“They just need either a vaccination certificate, or a negative test or a certificate that they have recovered. So, basically, we are already requesting the information that will be incorporated in the digital certificate,” he said.
It is reminded that the travel certificate idea was initially tabled by the Greek PM in January.
The Greek government on Friday, May 28, will unveil the country’s digital green certificate for travel.