New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
As of Monday, 2,534, 981 individuals in the US have been infected by the coronavirus out of the 10,199,798 infected globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
We are fully ready to accept visitors from the rest of the world on July 1,”Haris Theoharis, Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic said in the June 24 AHI Virtual Speakers Forum, “Greece is Ready to Welcome You: What You Need to Know,” however, he expressed uncertainty about EU policy on US entry to the EU on that date (Greece spurred action for the EU to formulate a common policy).
Now we know that US passport holders have to wait to travel to Greece,no matter that Greece needs us more than ever or that the 11th Greek News campaign “Let’s Go to Greece!” has us enthusiastically planning, it is uncertain when the US will enter the global entry list to Greece.
What we are certain of is that when we go, Greece has our back from the moment weenter the country. As panelists Minister Theoharis, hotelier Tim Ananiadis, and travel executive Konstantinos Georgiadismade clear in the forum, the health initiatives taken by Greece to protect the health of visitors to Greece are exceptional, as one would expect from a global leader in the fight against the virus pandemic.Said Minister Theoharis, “Our ambition is not to be the number one country in tourism this year,” “Our ambition is to be the safest country in tourism this year.”
“Hoteliers are taking precautions to keep guests and employees safe pursuant to government guidelines,” said Tim Ananiadis. General Manager and Managing Director of the Hotel Grande Bretagne and the King George. Ananiadis is looking forward to what he expects will be a fully operational reopening of the Grande Bretagne on July 10-15. This includes the bars, the outdoor pool, the spa, and the gym, “all following Greece’s National Guidelines to keep guests and employees safe.” He noted that a key factor in keeping guests safe is providing transportation from the airport to the hotel and the reverse for departure.”
“We will be fully compliant with the same protocols all the hotels are required to follow:12 hours minimum must pass before a vacated room can be re-occupied; there is UVA electrostatic cleaning; and all rooms have HEPA filter air purifiers,” said Ananiadis, “The aimis to keep the visitor 1. safe, and 2. comfortable in the environment.”
His camera vantage showing the Grande Bretagne’s Winter Garden as background, Ananiadis said all hotels in Greece, no matter what grade, must be examined and certified before reopening. For a hotel to qualify for health certification, all hotel employees must be tested for the coronavirus every 3-4 days, there must be a doctor on staff, a clinic available to all guests, all staff must be diligent in the wearing of masks, and guests who need assistance must be taken care of from their arrival by car andto their car on departure.
Konstantinos Georgiadis, Vice President and General Manager of Amphitrion Holidays, a self-described “optimist by nature” said “We are in the middle of the pandemic but there is light at the end of the tunnel… a ‘new normal’ comeback.” There is a demand for travel to Greece, said Georgiadis, and he is optimistic that US tourists are ready to visit once they are allowed.
His optimistic perspective on the pandemic crisis focuses on “the excellent job Greece did with the coronavirus makes it well-positioned to receive tourism, which will come sooner or later. There is an interest, once fear and uncertainty are overcome. I believe Greece will rebound in Spring 2021. 2021 includes our Bicentennial, for which there are many plans, plus AHEPA comes back in 2021. The last time we looked at 2021, there were three times the number of reservations for groups than in 2020.” As for this year, “whoever is lucky enough to go to Greece is… lucky.”
Hopefully, there will be positive messages coming across in July, said Georgiadis, noting that with transatlantic flights undergoing cancellations and nonstop flights to Greece cancelled, airlines have been impacted greatly. Emirates flights are starting in July, but there is uncertainty as to whether they will fill flights. On a positive note Georgeadis said, “airlines offer better rates; they take precautions to keep passengers safe by blocking seats, distributing masks, and constantly disinfecting planes and check-in procedures at airports.
Georgeadis expressed the opinion that “We will not be seeing tourism as we know it this summer. Tourism from the US will start in the Fall. There is recognition that Greece has done its job well, thus positioning itself for a restart of tourism. The omogenia is very interested. The Greek American community and the diaspora don’t just want to go to Greece for a holiday… they want to support Greece.
“Greece has faced challenges before and has overcome them and there is no reason to believe Greece cannot overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said AHI president, Nick Larigakis.