In what is considered the most difficult gambit in the history of Greek tourism, Greece will open its borders Wednesday under strict health protocols to foreign travelers from certain non-European Union countries, excluding, however, traditional major players such as the US, UK, Russia, Sweden and Israel.
The challenge for Greece will be on the one hand to keep the pandemic under control – an area in which it has a competitive advantage – and on the other to provide tourists with the best experience possible.
The full list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter the country is expected to be officially announced Tuesday and to be in line with the relevant EU decisions.
The ban on flights from the UK and Sweden will continue until July 15, depending on their epidemiological data. However, the prospects for tourists from other major markets like the US and Russia arriving in the next two months are at best anemic, according to research.
Experts say that, at best, Greece can expect tourism revenues of 4-5 billion euros in 2020, significantly down from 18.1 billion in 2019. This is due to the fact that the US, UK, Russia, Sweden and Israel combined account for almost a quarter of total travel revenue, and because the four months of March through June were lost due to the lockdown.
Indicatively, Greece’s travel revenues from the US, Russia and Britain during 2019 amounted to more than 4 billion, according to data from the Bank of Greece. This is 20% of the country’s revenue from tourism and much higher for specific Greek destinations and hotel units that are highly dependent on one of those markets.
The US is the third largest market for Greek tourism, with 1.18 million travelers in 2019 and revenues of 1.2 billion euros.
The UK is the second largest market for Greek tourism, after Germany. In 2019, receipts from Britain amounted to 2.564 billion euros and arrivals last year reached 3.5 million travelers.
Russia ranks 12th, having dropped from the levels seen a decade ago. In 2019, there were 582,000 arrivals and revenues reached 433 million. The new emerging Israeli market is in 21st place and in 2019 generated revenue of 200 million.