NEWS

Officials jumpstart effort to boost tourism

UK, Russia main targets of drive; aim is to convince them to lift restrictions on travel

officials-jumpstart-effort-to-boost-tourism

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his top aides have made it their top priority to ensure this year’s tourist season does not resemble the disastrous one of last year’s, despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is still going on.

The officials believe arrivals will rise significantly at the end of June and will stay at high levels.

A big obstacle to this optimistic scenario is the approach of countries such as the UK and Russia, both very important sources of visitors for Greece, which, based on what they deem as the still high viral load in Greece, place restrictions on their citizens’ traveling to Greece.

Greece’s argument is that the country’s epidemiological situation is not best reflected in the number of new, confirmed coronavirus cases but in the millions of self-tests and the tens of thousands of molecular tests administered each week. The intense efforts of Greek officials aim to have those countries relax their restrictions – notably, the requirement for their residents to quarantine upon their return – by the end of June.

Concerning the UK, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis has already visited and is to be followed by Minister of State George Gerapetritis. Based on Greece’s case incidence, the country is in the “amber” list according to the UK’s “traffic light” system, meaning that UK citizens traveling to Greece must quarantine for 10 days upon their return and produce two negative coronavirus tests.

The Greek government is trying to convince its UK counterpart not to treat Greece as a single entity, but divide it into zones, according to the existing viral load. This is not far-fetched, as such an agreement had been reached in 2020. Greece thus hopes UK tourists traveling directly to Greek islands, where the numbers of new infections are low, will be exempt from the quarantine.

Similar behind-the-scenes talks are under way with Russia. According to sources, Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, head of the Greek commission on the coronavirus, met again last week with his Russian counterpart, Anna Popova, who is both the chief state sanitary physician of the Russian Federation and the head of Rospotrebnadzor, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing.

Russia does not order its citizens to quarantine, but refuses to increase the number of flights to and from Greece.