People enjoy a sunny day at the beach at a resort near Athens, Greece on May 8, 2021 (posted May 9, 2021). The equipped paying beaches reopened on May 08 on the basis of security protocols. Photo: EPA-EFE / ALEXANDROS VLACHOS
Greece officially reopened to international tourism on May 14 with a campaign targeting foreign visitors, titled ‘All you want is Greece’, presented by Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis in front of the backdrop of the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion the day before.
The campaign is the largest promotional program that the Greek National Tourism Organization, GNTO, has run in a decade, and includes five videos, as well as a website (visitgreece.com) to be launched in the coming days.
Returning from overseas tours promoting Greece as a safe summer tourist destination, Theocharis said all visitors to the country should present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test. recent or a document certifying recent recovery from the virus. Tourists will also need to have prepared a form indicating where they will be staying in Greece and for how long.
Although the videos focus on promoting the country’s natural landscapes, the minister said the real challenge this year was not to promote Greece’s natural beauty but “security” in the context of COVID-19 and health.
He insisted that the Greek government had taken all necessary measures in this regard and referred to the summer of last year as a good example, when he said: âGreek tourism has won a difficult bet. . We opened under strict conditions and welcomed visitors safely to the country.
In fact, the effectiveness and success of last year’s summer season, as well as this year’s prospects, are widely questioned both inside and outside the country.
In a recent interview the minister gave on BBC radio’s HardTalk show, Theocharis faced tough questions about reopening the country to tourists as vaccination numbers remain fairly low; To date, 13% of the Greek population have received both doses of the vaccine.
Many Greeks also saw last year’s unregulated opening to tourists as the cause of a surge in cases in the fall. Greece is now aiming to vaccinate all popular tourist islands except Crete which, due to its large size and population, follows the national strategy.
As Greece opens up to tourism, tourists themselves have yet to come to Greece. In Athens, some hotels have yet to open, with many owners doubting whether it is in their best interests to open this year or not.
In the villages of Platanias and Maleme on Crete, which largely serve tourists from the UK, BIRN spotted empty streets, cafes, restaurants and beach bars.
Yannis Orestis Papadimitriou, reporter covering Greece for the The telegraph of the day, told BIRN: “Tourism professionals have told me that bookings generally arrive at the last moment of this year and that the tourist season should start no earlier than the end of June.”
âThe UK’s orange classification of Greece has already led to canceled bookings. This is important as the UK is the second largest source country for tourism to Greece, but traders believe they will bounce back, although it seems unlikely that they will come close to 2019 figures, â did he declare.
“The one thing everyone agrees on is that any notion of ‘success’ for this season is primarily based on vaccination rates,” he added.
Theocharis declined to set a target for this year’s tourism figures and only insisted Greece would do “better than last year”.
Tourism normally accounts for about a fifth of the national economy and employs one in five workers. Last year, it brought the country around 4 billion euros, far less than the 18 billion euros earned in 2019.
Industry officials say Greece plans to restore 50% of travel activity recorded in 2019 and welcome around 15 million tourists.
But until last week, according to Konstantina Svinou, president of the Tourism Research Institute, bookings across the country were only 20% of the 2019 figure, with the majority of them being made for July.
Greece has recorded more than 11,000 deaths from COVID-19. On May 13, 2,167 new cases and 55 additional deaths were recorded. While tourism competitors like Spain, Italy and Portugal have vaccinated a significant percentage of their older age groups, in Greece just over 62-63% of people over 70 have have been.
In addition to the campaign to attract foreign tourists to Greece, a separate campaign will be aired in the coming weeks to tackle growing skepticism about vaccines and persuade older people to get vaccinated.