By Geoffrey Pyatt*
It is a privilege to once again contribute to the Greek News annual “Go to Greece” campaign, especially in light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the Greek government’s Menoume Asfaleis, “We Stay Safe” campaign.
I would start by reiterating our commendations to Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his government for Greece’s successful management of the pandemic, which has won praise from international partners and from the media worldwide. Prime Minister Mitsotakis has indicated that even as Greece opens up, it will continue a regime of algorithm-based random testing of arriving visitors, a regime intended to keep Greeks and visitors safe. The Greek government has also instituted health protocols and checks for hotels, restaurants, beaches, and ferries to make tourism as safe as possible, and I fully agree with its most recent slogan, “Greek summer is a state of mind.” My wife Mary and I, and our whole Embassy, have been and will continue to strictly adhere to the government’s safety measures as we begin gradually traveling in Greece this summer, maintaining the appropriate social distance.
This year, during the global health crisis, I highlighted many of my favorite Greek destinations through my #FridayPhoto series on Twitter. There are plenty I didn’t get to include in the series, for example: the brilliant, omega-shaped Voidokilia Beach in the Peloponnese; Halkidiki, revered by Macedonians as the best beaches in Greece—and rightfully so, as it has the most blue flag beaches in the country; or the islands of Corfu and Naxos, both of which are less well known to American visitors, but have their own distinctive culture, food, and landscapes. And there are so many more locations in Greece I would still like to see.
I was proud that American companies really stepped up during the pandemic to strengthen their partnerships with Greece and allow us to enjoy Greece through technology. Google partnered with the Ministry of Tourism on the Greece From Home initiative, where you and your family can tour the treasures of the Acropolis Museum, visit the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos, or check out the Street Mode Festival in Thessaloniki. Microsoft partnered with the Ministry of Culture in bringing Ancient Olympia, home of the Olympic Games, to our desktops through augmented reality. I am excited about how we might further develop this relationship in conjunction with the next “American” Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.
And even as we talk about the Greek summer, we should not forget something that I continue to stress to Americans: Greece is an incredible destination even outside the summer months. At Karpenisi, the “Greek Alps,” Kalavrita Ski Center on Mount Helmos, and even Mount Parnassos near Athens, you can enjoy an awesome, secret ski season, so plan to come back in early 2021 for a unique Greek winter experience.
Wherever you are this summer, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember that Greece will be waiting to welcome you safely, whenever you want to visit.
*** Geoffrey Pyatt is the U.S. Ambassador to Greece. This is the third year in a row he contributes to the “Let’s go to Greece” campaign of “Greek News”