Greece opens doors and advances in the Mediterranean race to recover tourism

Last summer, Spain suffered, Italy suffered and Greece suffered. Like the vast majority of countries due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, although these three destinations have especially noted the drastic fall in tourism, capital in their respective economies. And now the three of them are working hard to prepare for a summer of 2021 in which they want to pick up the pace. The first to take the plunge was Greece, which opened the doors on Friday to the arrival of tourists without the need for quarantine and without waiting for the implementation of the covid passport studied by the European Union.

Last year, covid restrictions caused the number of tourists visiting Greece to drop by 78.2%. It fell from the 34 million who traveled to Greece in 2019 – a historic record in the Hellenic country – to 7.4 million, according to official data. And of course, this caused a sharp drop in revenue for the sector.


Tourism accounts for between 25% and 30% of Greek GDP

A tourist poses this Friday on the Greek island of Milos

DPA via Europa Press / EP

And it is that tourism represents between 25 and 30% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greece – in Spain and Italy it represents between 12 and 13%. For this 2021 summer campaign, in full de-escalation, Greece aims to recover at least half of the cake and reach 17 million tourists, half of those it attracted in the “old normality”.

The Hellenic government of conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis has actively and passively promised that the opening to tourism will be done with all possible precautions and with little risk. To do this, Greece has launched a vaccination campaign which, it says, aims to have all its inhabitants vaccinated in six weeks. It’s the end of June.


“Express” vaccination on tourist islands

In addition, the Greek executive claims to have created a “firewall” on its islands, its main tourist attraction. The islands are precisely the weakest link in Greek public health, given that hospital care is much more precarious there.

For this reason, Greece has chosen to create a different vaccination operation on the islands, horizontal and without distinction of age: it has already immunized the population of the youngest, it hopes to conclude it at the end of May in the average, and at the end of June in those with more than 100,000 inhabitants. This means that at the start of the high season, it is likely that all of its islanders will be vaccinated.


Hotels in Greece are preparing their facilities for the arrival of tourists



Without quarantine, Greece only requires vaccination, having passed the virus, or negative PCR or rapid test

Since this Friday, quarantines are no longer necessary. For trips to the islands by ferry -with a maximum occupancy of 85%- or by plane, it is mandatory for nationals and tourists to present one of the following options: vaccination certificate, obtained 14 days after the second dose ; negative PCR test performed 72 hours before travel; rapid or home test carried out 24 hours before, or a certificate attesting that the disease has been overcome and which will be valid for two to nine months after having been affected.

Another essential factor that changes from this Friday is that you can enter non-essential stores without an appointment, as has been mandatory since stores reopened at the end of March. Despite everything, the limitation of one customer per 25 square meters remains present, as well as the distancing protocols and the obligation to wear a mask everywhere.


The curfew is maintained, from 00:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., and the mandatory mask

The picture on the streets already started to change on May 3 when they reopened outdoor bars and restaurants after six months with the harsh lockdown except for delivery services. With this opening, the curfew has also begun to ease, which from this weekend will be even shorter and will be in effect from 00:30 a.m. until 5:00 a.m., allowing the restaurant to close at midnight.

Little by little normalcy is returning to Greece. It is open to tourists, but it is also an interior opening. For Greeks, perhaps the most important change is that they can return to their summer residences or visit relatives in the cities, because from this Friday the ban on travel between regions disappears.


Aerial image of a beach in the Peloponnese



The incidence of cases in Greece is still higher than in Spain

However, the pandemic has not gone away. The current cumulative incidence in Greece remains very high – from almost 270 to 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants – and the pressure on the precarious public health system remains very high.

In recent weeks, the number of infections has stabilized slightly, but it continues to well exceed 2,000 cases per day, in a country of nearly eleven million inhabitants. Despite this, health experts see positive signs in the fact that in recent weeks hospital discharges have started to outpace admissions.

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