Just a few days before July 1, when Greek borders are set to open further to tourists, air ticket and accommodation bookings remain anaemic.
Although all the signs – from visits to tour operator and hotel websites to aircraft slot bookings and from potential visitor opinion polls to phone calls to Greek hotels for information – point to increased interest in Greek destinations, July actually doesn’t seem that different to June: Very few bookings have been made and even then no deposits have been paid as tourism professionals are trying to woo more tourists.
The options offered by airlines, tour operators and hotels for bookings without down payments, or of a free cancellation up to just a few days before they set off, with deposits returned, mean that even those bookings that came with cash could come to nothing in the end. This is the concern being expressed by sector entrepreneurs, who add that all the enthusiasm about the positive image of Greece abroad and the confirmed interest by foreign travelers appears for the time being to be virtual.
The first step toward tourism’s restart is the scheduling of flights from abroad. The current picture of increased demand for ground handling may be reversed if seat occupancy proves too low, according to air transport industry insiders.
Several hoteliers are reporting more bookings for September and October than July as the majority of potential travelers want to see first how this holiday season shapes up. However, this could lead to a vicious cycle of waiting, which may end in a second wave of the pandemic – which some countries are already experiencing.
For the vicious cycle to become a virtuous one, it will take the first arrivals in July, few as they may turn out to be, to send out the message that Greece is indeed safe and that the country’s health and safety management inspires confidence. Only then will the next tourists decide to head to Greece on holiday. This trial process may last one or two months, meaning a lost July and an anaemic August.