Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
Addressing correspondents of international media at the iconic island of Santorini on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about how the summer tourism season will officially reopen on Monday and presented his detailed insight on the government’s plan for the next day in the country’s most prominent industry, after the coronavirus pandemic.
Taking a podium each at the Greek Summer 2020 press conference, the Greek Premier and his advisor Thanassis Bakolas launched the tourism season in Greece in 2020 with Bakolas telling attendees that Greece managed to impressively contain the pandemic and welcomed all to “the Greek summer,” he exclaimed.
Mitsotakis said that nothing is the same after the pandemic and the fact that there can actually be a tourism season this year to begin with, is the result of hard work which will ensure that this summer is safe for all, including visitors and workers in the tourism sector.
Successfully confronting the coronavirus crisis opened a new chapter that shows Greece plays an important role in the heart of the European continent, he said, as dealing with it had everyone involved work hard to ensure that visitors stay safe and healthy, and he mentioned the country’s readiness to deal with any coronavirus cases, should there be any. Preparing to launch the tourism season on June 15 was based on the advice of health experts, he said.
He noted that last year Greece welcomed 33 million tourists, but this year “we will have to work on a fraction of that number.” It matters how comfortable people feel getting on a plane and flying to Greece or taking the car and driving to Greece, he noted, and mentioned that there’s more than 10 million people that come to Greece by car each year; “not everyone comes to Greece by plane, so a lot will depend on our ability to project that Greece is a safe destination,” said the Greek Premier.
“I’m interested in making Greece the number one destination in Europe, the safest destination in Europe,” the Prime Minister noted.
The challenge is to shift from successfully dealing with the pandemic domestically to repeating the success in opening up to the rest of the world, he highlighted.
Putting the emphasis on tourism workers, he said that “a lot of money was spent to support our tourism sector, to make sure that they can survive this summer,” he stressed, as the government put in place flexible working arrangements to protect hotel employees and also paid their social insurance contributions.
“If everything goes according to plan and by 2021 we have a vaccine or a treatment, 2021 is going to be a bumper year,’ Mitsotakis exclaimed.
The Prime Minister also paid special attention to climate change and the need to protect Greece’s unique natural environment by promoting sustainable tourism within the country’s unique natural environment, special cultural heritage and merited agri-food sector, as he said.
Mitsotakis also spoke of encouraging domestic tourism with a voucher program to support Greeks who qualify due to low incomes.
Tourism in Greece must focus on quality services, sustainability, and also offer incentives to people who want to invest in Greece. As the country has not focused so much on heavy industry, its natural environment, land and seas, are free of industrial pollution. This is why this government intends to render Greece a leading country in sustainable tourism, he asserted.
“We need to continue to do the right thing,” he said in reference to standing health safety protocols against the coronavirus, and “we will be very strict when it comes to the basic parameters and guidelines that we put in place” for the tourism and hospitality sector, he assured all.
“We’ve demonstrated that the state can actually operate at a very high level,” Mitsotakis said in his closing remarks, and expressed his satisfaction about what he called the people’s trust in his government, in the country’s national health system and all the authorities that were involved in both protecting citizens and preparing the country for reopening to tourism.
“This is a very important legacy that we need to build upon,” Mitsotakis concluded.
Visiting hospital and
the archaeological site
Earlier Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was, speaking at the archeological site of Akrotiri at the island of Santorini, accompanied by Culture & Sports Minister Lina Mendoni, who gave Mitsotakis a tour of the emblematic site. The archeological findings show Akrotiri was one of the most important ancient settlements in the Aegean Sea during the prehistoric period, later becoming a key trade port during the Bronze Age.
Mitsotakis said Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer with priority to health safety
“We will open all museums on June 15,” said the Prime Minister, “and we will be ready to welcome visitors and tourists who come to Santorini not only for its stunning scenery and famous sunsets, but also for its unique archeological treasures.”
He noted that all infrastructures are set up so as to ensure that the correct social distancing can be observed everywhere, according to health experts’ instructions, “so that our tourists feel safe,” and underlined that “we want to protect their own health as well as the health of workers here.”
Welcoming Mitsotakis to Akrotiri, Mendoni stressed that all the archeological sites and museums in the country operate on the basis of ‘health safety above all’, which is one of Greece’s central maxims during this summer’s tourism campaign.
Prior to visiting Akrotiri, Mitsotakis was welcomed by Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias to Santorini’s Thera General Hospital, where he was briefed on the hospital’s readiness to deal with any potential coronavirus cases and also its preparedness to carry out diagnostic tests.
At Thera general hospital the Greek Premier also discussed the government’s efforts to remove any legal hurdles that prevent the uninterrupted air transfer of any type of patients from Santorini to off-island health facilities.
To this effect and beyond it, Mitsotakis said that “we have a critical summer ahead of us and our intention is to welcome visitors without making any discounts on safety and security, for both the local population and the workers in the National Health System.”
Special medical housing units have been placed in the surrounding grounds at Thera General Hospital, while on Friday a Covid-19 molecular diagnosis expert was installed at the hospital so that sending samples to the Hellenic Pasteur Institute (HPI) in Athens may not be required.
“When the summer tourist season comes full circle,” said Mitsotakis, “we will be able to say that we did not just manage the first wave of the pandemic in an exemplary way, but that we also set the bar very high on how we can reopen tourism safely – above all else,” he exclaimed.
Mitsotakis will give a press conference on Saturday evening for foreign correspondents, thus marking the opening of the tourist season.