New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
U.S. airliners increased the number of the direct flights from various cities to Athens Greece, despite the decision by the Department of State to place Greece, along with 100 countries to Level 4 that suggests “Do not Travel”. The State Department updated all its travel advisories to more closely align with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a change that resulted in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide.”
A State Department spokesperson commented on Greek state broadcaster ERT that, given the conditions, most countries are now at Level 3 or 4, noting that the pandemic entails unprecedented risks that the advisory takes into account. But a source in Washington close to CDC told the “Greek News” that the main reason for the decision was to discourage traveling abroad this summer, not only for health but also for economic reasons.
Passengers going to Greece faced some difficulties in some European airports, mainly due to measures taken by E.U. authorities in response to the State Department decision to put them on Level 4. Greek News has learned that issues with both Paris and Amsterdam were resolved by Friday, but they remained with Germany, where authorities insist on placing even transit passengers to quarantine, after finding that some of the tested randomly to be positive to Covid-19.
Greece has eased trips from the US since last Monday and if the pandemic does not peak again, US tourists will offer a major boost to the Greek economy, especially as far as Athens is concerned, as Americans are among the highest-spending travelers per capita: In 2019, a record year for tourism, they spent over 1 billion euros in the country.
Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis, who was in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday, held meetings with the President of Delta Airlines. The U.S. airliner announced a third direct flight to Athens, Greece, during summer period, from Atlanta, Georgia.
“Greek News” has learned that Minister Haris Theoharis suggested to DELTA to retain 3-4 daily direct flights to Greece every week, all year round, given the increased cargo and the good prospects of cruises and tourism.
The 9 direct flights to Athens, Greece during the summer months, are:
Three from New York’s JFK (2 Delta and 1 American Airlines).
Two from New Jersey’s Newark (Emirates, United)
One from Washington’s Dulles (United)
One from Philadelphia (American)
One from Chicago (American)
One From Atlanta (Delta).
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis stopped in Atlanta, Georgia, on the way to Cancun, Mexico, for a conference. In both the United States and Mexico, the Greek minister is to have a series of meetings with state officials, representatives of airline companies and other organisations involved with the international tourist market, as well as giving interviews to the media.
On Friday, Theoharis met in Atlanta with the President of Delta Airlines Glen Hauenstein and other executives of the US airline company. Later, Theoharis met with representatives of the American Jewish Committee and Greek-American public officials and entrepreneurs. At the evening, Supreme President George Horiates and other board of the AHEPA gave a dinner in his honor, during which they discussed the upcoming Supreme Convention of the AHEPA in Athens, in July.
On Saturday, he was expected to have successive meetings with Polly Potter, the Honorary Consul of Cyprus in Atlanta and with Tourism Commissioner Marc Zaronski.
On Sunday and on Monday, Theoharis will be in Cancun, Mexico for meetings and discussions with the tourism ministers of Spain and Portugal, as well as with Greg O’Hara, the founder and managing director of Certares, one of the largest tourism groups in the world. The Certares portfolio includes, among others, American Express Travel, the Travel Leaders’ Group and part of Trip Advisor.
Later, Theoharis will take part in a meeting with the Tourism Minister of Saudi Arabia Ahmed Al Khateeb, the Tourism Secretary of Mexico Miguel Torruco and the president of World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) Gloria Guevara. The participants will discuss issues related with the lifting of restrictions on international travel for tourism.
Additionally, on Monday, Theoharis will meet with the managing director of Hilton Group Chris Nassetta, with the president of the organisation “Room Mate” Kike Sarasola and with the president of Marriott International Craig Smith.
On Wednesday, Theoharis will return to the USA and visit Dallas, Texas to meet with top officials of the airline company “American Airlines”.
Theoharis’ visit to the US will conclude next Thursday in Chicago, where he will have a meeting with the president of “United Airlines” Brett Hart and afterwards with the President and CEO of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Carey Pinkowski.
Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Monday announced the lifting of a mandatory seven-day quarantine for airline passengers arriving in Greece for those who are permanent residents of the European Union, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Israel. The CAA also announced an extension of Covid-19 restrictions on domestic and foreign flights until 6:00 on Holy Monday, April 26.
All persons arriving in Greece from the above countries must either have a certificate (in English) issued by the relevant authority in their country of departure that they have completed vaccination at least 14 days before arrival or have a negative result in a PCR test for Covid-19 performed in the last 72 hours before arrival.
The decision by the Greek authorities aim to boost badly hit from the pandemic tourist industry that contributes over 20% of the country’s GDP. Some optimists predict U.S tourist numbers to tie those of 2019.
Restrictions on foreign and domestic flights until April 26 are as follows:
– Domestic flights: The Covid-19 notam covers passenger flights, commercial and general/business avation and restricts all but Essential Travel (travel for health reasons, professional/business reasons, reunification of families and return to a permanent place of residence).
– Forbids entry into Greece of non-EU and Schengen area residents, except for essential travel. Excepted from the above are the permanent residents of the following 12 countries: United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Serbia, United States and Israel.
– All passengers arriving in Greece from abroad (with the exception of those listed above) must self-isolate at home or the temporary place of residence listed on the Passenger Locator Form for seven days. Passengers from abroad may also be subjected to random tests for Covid-19 upon arrival. If the result of this test is positive, they must observe a 14-day quarantine.
– All arrivals from abroad must have a negative PCR test for Covid-19 done up to 72 hours before arriving in Greece.
– All passengers must complete a Passenger Locator Form at the web-site travel.gov.gr as must all passengers who are permanent residents of Greece and depart from the country’s airports.
– For passengers from Russia, there is a maximum limit of 4,000 a week and arrival is restricted to the airports of Athens, Thessaloniki and Iraklio.
The Secretary General of the Greek National Tourist Organisation (GNTO) Dimitris Fragakis had a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias to discuss the start of the tourist season, according to an announcement on Friday. In a statement, Fragakis noted that “the timely and safe opening of tourism on May 15 is a priority for the government. To achieve this requires effective planning, a lot of work from everyone and good coordination.”
As Fragakis said that they discussed the steps and the manner of their cooperation in the coming critical weeks. “GNTO has the experience, but also the tools in order to assist with the provision of information to our visitors when they enter the country. It is our common goal to give our visitors the confidence that they are visiting a beautiful and well-organised country for a holiday,” said the secretary general.