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Difficult Year Ahead for Greek Tourism, Says Minister

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis

Signs are positive for the year ahead, said Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis, adding that more than 9,000 travelers from the UK visited Greece last week despite the Covid-19 restrictions and the outbreak of the Indian variant in their homeland.

In an interview to public broadcaster ERT on Wednesday, Theoharis acknowledged that 2021 would be a “difficult” year, adding that besides Greece’s management of the health crisis, very much hinged on how other countries address the pandemic.

“More than 9,000 Britons came to our country last week and chose to spend their holidays here, a very satisfactory number considering the restrictions, quarantine, etc. imposed by the United Kingdom. This demonstrates people’s desire to visit us and to travel in general,” said Theoharis hours after UK travel and tourism stakeholders including pilots, cabin crew, travel agents urged the British government to “save the summer holiday season by reopening routes abroad or risk destroying thousands of jobs as companies collapse. 

On Tuesday, tour operator TUI joined a number of airlines including Ryanair, Virgin, and  BA, announcing that they would sue the UK government over its traffic light travel system.

Photo source: @Heathrow airport

Theoharis went on to add that the three-day holiday last week boosted bookings by domestic travelers, which he said was a sign of a gradual return to normalcy. He stressed however that there was no room for relaxation. The opening of all economic activity means more attention and not carelessness, he said.

The Greek minister also referred to the importance of Russian tourism to Greece. He said 39 incoming charter flights would be running from Russia to Greek destinations as of next week.

Lastly, Theoharis reiterated the need to restart tourism activity as fast as possible as it is provides crucial support to the economy. Domestic tourism, he said, helps redistribute traffic while international tourism generates revenue and boosts the economy.

Key goals for 2021 include extending the tourist season, which he said will be difficult but is a top priority and can be achieved due to strong demand. 

Safety is also at the top of the government’s list. Citing the example of Portugal, where a UK strain has become dominant, Theoharis admitted that there was still high risk but Greece was well prepared thanks to its tourism operation plan and surveillance system.

“We don’t want to open our economy at all costs and without any system in place. Competition is fierce. We will not play the game of indiscriminate opening. For us, everyone’s health remains a primary goal,” he said.

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