NEWS

Greek tourism walking a thin line

Forecasts revised downward in view of new pandemic wave; clearer picture expected by end-July

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Amid yet another downward revision of forecasts for this year’s revenues, tourism operators are also adapting, in view of a new fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Indeed, the resurgence of the pandemic may lead to a review of Greek policy toward inbound tourism and, even more likely, European policy. 

It is nonetheless hard to chart a clear course for tourism before the end of July, when both the results of the latest epidemiological spike and the progress of vaccinations are assessed.

What is clear, however, is that the goal set earlier this year to recover 50% of tourism activity in 2019 (about 9.1 billion euros) is now considered by tourism market officials to be unattainable. 

On a brighter note, Britain announced that from July 19 its vaccinated citizens will be able to visit countries on the amber list, such as Greece, without having to quarantine on their return. 

If there are no changes to the decision, and as long as potential travelers are not put off by a worsening of the pandemic, the decision may pave the way for a significant – compared to last year – number of visitors from Greece’s second largest tourism market. 

For his part, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis told Kathimerini that without ignoring the existing and justified concern about the developments on the pandemic front, “we can only assess as particularly positive some factors, such as the number of arrivals during June.”

Given that June was essentially the opening month of Greek tourism in 2021, Theocharis said the data regarding the number of travelers is encouraging.

“We did much better than the corresponding month last year, while now the decision of the British government to lift the restrictions on its vaccinated citizens is very important and we expect a positive impact on Greek tourism,” he said. 

He also noted that many British tourists, despite the recent obligation to quarantine after returning to their country, chose to visit Greece.

He stressed, however, that the protection of public health remains the absolute priority. “We will not hesitate to tighten the health protocols,” he said, adding that ”from the first moment, the message was: We open safely – we follow the protocols – we speed up the vaccinations.”