Athens.- (ANA-MPA, GreekNewsOnline)
British nationals will be allowed into Greece during the summer regardless of whether they have been inoculated against Covid-19, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told ITV News on Thursday, adding that even unvaccinated people will not have to self-isolate.
Theoharis said that vaccination programs and the use of rapid testing for the coronavirus will make a great difference this year in reopening the country during its high tourist season.
Britons who have not been vaccinated must still present a recent negative test before allowed in the country, he added.
Greece’s tourism minister has called on EU leaders to “move more quickly” to embrace the vaccine certificates that could allow mass travel to resume, as Athens seeks to repair a holiday industry that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Financial Times’ article.
“Looking at the reaction of some countries to vaccination certificate proposals, I feel there’s a lot of short sightedness. There’s more to be done now to prepare ourselves,” Harry Theocharis told the Financial Times.
“Some countries are very much preoccupied with now” he said, as northern European nations, in particular, were unwilling to look ahead and plan for an economic recovery in the summer. “We need to move more quickly.”
The introduction of vaccination passports that could allow leisure and business travellers to move between countries after being inoculated will be discussed at the EU summit that begins on Thursday.
Member states led by Greece floated the idea last month but the bloc is divided and diplomats see early adoption of the proposed system as unlikely, because of fears they will set up a discriminatory two-tier system of citizens’ travel rights, the Financial Times added.
Tourism is vital to Greece, accounting for about a fifth of GDP and employment, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation. Despite a partial reopening last summer, the restrictions on international travel wiped 4 per cent from Greece’s GDP, UN estimates suggest, as hotel and accommodation revenues slumped by two-thirds.
The Greek sector is almost entirely reliant on international tourism with the domestic population too small and still too financially constrained following the country’s 2008 debt crisis to make up for a fall in external visitors, according to the Financial times.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed hope that the tourist season in 2021 “will be much better than last year”, in an interview with the German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” published on Thursday.
“Our goal is to reach at least 50 pct of the 2019 levels,” he pointed out, expressing the belief that the vaccination campaign in Greece, named operation ‘Eleftheria’, will ensure that by May all citizens over the age of 60 but also all those with underlying diseases will have been vaccinated,” he stated.
Shortly before the teleconference of the leaders of the European Union, Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that “the Greek Prime Minister seeks to facilitate travel to the EU,” while especially highlighting Mitsotakis’ initiative for the introduction of a standard EU-wide vaccination certificate for travel within the EU.
Asked how Greece would use the money from the EU Recovery Fund, the prime minister pointed out that such a possibility happened only once per generation. He also expressed his determination to transform the Greek economy with an emphasis on digitisation, increased investment and a shift to green energy, including phasing out lignite by 2028.
TAKE BIG LOSSES
Athens, despite the problems created by the pandemic, continues to show resilience as a travel destination and to charm and win over its visitors, a survey by GBR Consulting showed on Tuesday. The survey was presented online during the 50th annual general assembly of the members of the Athens-Attica-Saronic Hoteliers Union. The survey also showed a sharp drop in Athens hotels’ revenue, totaling 720 million euros.
The survey showed that Greece was promoted as a safe destination in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, something verified by tourists themselves, as around 43 pct of tourists in Athens said they chose the city because they considered it to be a safe destination (the percentage among tourists aged 18-25 was 60 pct). The pandemic did not have any effect on spending in the city, which was around 115 euros per day per person, unchanged from 2018 and 2019.
GBR Consulting said that tourist demand remained at very low levels and as a result a significant number of hotels remained closed in Athens. September recorded the highest percentage of rooms in operation (78 pct) with only 56 pct in December. The overall occupancy rate in 2020 was 19.7 pct and losses exceeded 700 million euros.