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Delta Variant Puts Pressure on Greek Tourism

Greece tourism professionals are once again revising downwards their projects for 2021 in view of an imminent fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Industry insiders now say that recovering 50 percent or approximately 9.1 billion euros of 2019 tourism activity – the government’s target – is near to impossible.

In view of the uncertainty surrounding travel and particularly as the Delta variant of the virus spreads, sector professionals are now forecasting a reachable target of 30-35 percent of 2019 activity or approximately 6.35 billion euros – up by 2 billion against 2020.

Last year, after Covid-19 broke out, Greece saw international arrivals plunge by 78.2 percent to 7.4 million travelers down from 31.3 million in pre-covid 2019.

Travel receipts plummeted by 76.2 percent to 4.3 billion euros down from 18.17 billion euros in 2019 before the pandemic.

Tourism stakeholders now say that July will make or break the tourism year combined with the arrival of new variants, rising cases as well as a reluctance by Greeks to get vaccinated.

In the meantime, tourism stakeholders and F&B services providers are awaiting government measures which may include new lockdowns or restrictions on movement as well as EU rules for travel.

Speaking to Greek daily Kathimerini, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis expressed his satisfaction with the UK’s decision earlier this week to allow quarantine-free travel to Greece.

“Without ignoring the existing and justified concern about developments on the pandemic front, mainly due to the Delta variant, we can only assess as particularly positive some elements, such as the number of arrivals in June,” he said.

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis. Source: PrimeMinisterGR

Theoharis said that July is considered to be the “first month of the country’s opening to tourism and that data from the number of incoming arrivals is “very encouraging” compared to last year.

However, many industry professionals are not as optimistic. If a fourth wave expected in Europe in August hits Greece, all hopes of an extended tourism season in October and November are lost, they say.

Earlier this week, Greece’s influential think-tank the Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) forecast a 40 to 45 percent recovery of 2019 tourism revenue up from 24 percent in 2020 to range from 3 billion to 3.8 billion euros in its good case scenario which does not include a fourth wave of the deadly pandemic in the second half of the year.

In a less positive outlook that takes into account a new round of Covid, lagging vaccination and new travel restrictions, the IOBE forecasts tourism receipts to reach 35 percent of the 2019 total, up by 2.1 billion euros.

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