Greek Tourism Minister Theoharis and Condor Airlines executives met in Berlin last week to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus and other issues. The airline, which has 150 scheduled flights to Greece each week, to 16 different destinations in the country, agreed with Theoharis on the need for institutional upgrading of tourism at an EU level. But despite their forward-thinking discussions on sustainable tourism, the COVID-19 subject is what’s on everyone’s mind.
In his meeting with Deputy Finance and Energy Minister responsible for tourism issues, Thomas Bareiß (Bareiss) agreed on the need to design a common strategy to tackle the repercussions of the new coronavirus outbreak. According to the news from various sources, the two officials discussed the prospects for promoting the tourism sector ahead of Germany’s assumption of the rotating EU presidency, as well as the possibility of supporting liquidity due to problems caused by the coronavirus.
Minister Theocharis also met with the Group Director Commercial Airport Relations & Groundhandling Procurement of Condor Airlines, Bernd Bechtel, and with the airline’s Commercial Director, Marketing & Sales, Paul Schwaiger, who underlined that the flights to Greece will not be reduced from the current 150 and that the campaign to promote Greece abroad is continuing.
Meanwhile, in Washington the U.S. State Department on Sunday warning citizens against cruise travel and Italy. There was a massive lockdown that ensued which affected millions of people. But, as drastic as this seems, what about the alternative? Just the other day Greek officials did a cursory check of MSC Opera after one disembarked passenger had tested positive, and then let the cruise liner head on its merry way to Malta. News of the ship’s situation reached Malta, which prompted people there to ward off the ocean liner.
Here in Crete, hoteliers and other industry stakeholders are in a panic mode over cancellations and the other impacts already hitten them on account of the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier today I spoke with one of the industry’s most expert executives, who asked to remain nameless, making no bones about how hoteliers are scurrying for answers to where the COVID-19 scare ends.
A few days ago a resort hotel owner who often confides in me expressed his fears that the coronavirus might ruin many hotel operations if the cancellations get much worse. And if you think about it, who really wants to be crowded into a cruise ship or aircraft stuffed with people who may or may not carry a virus that can kill? No matter how anybody in politics, marketing, sales, or PR plays this out, at the end of the day, people are scared to travel.
The only good news for Greece, so far, is that the vacation wonderland has a lot fewer cases than many European destinations, and there are so far no fatalities. It seems to me, with a little bit of common sense and some tough decisions from Greek authorities on travel to and from “risky” destinations, Greece could stand to receive less damaging effects than some other touristy places. Even still, working the numbers on this rapidly spreading virus outbreak gets harder and harder each day.
Even if Greece were to curtail or modify travel to and from places like Italy, how can anyone rest assured one cruise or one flight will not throw a monkey wrench in even the best-laid prevention plan? The fact that Condor and the Greek officials are still tightly focused on ramping up tourists and profits, it reveals the central problem with all international leadership. Every story and report you read is about the airline or shipping industry feeling the squeeze of coronavirus, but few stories mention anything anybody is doing to curb the spread.
It seems to me it’s about time the leaders of government and business started to consider the long term and the human effects of these problems. I was talking just yesterday with a big-time Cretan olive grower about this very issue. The way one life is lost in the greater scheme of things these days, people in every layer of society seems to be losing hope for any solutions.
It’s great that Condor will make flights to deliver Germans to Greece, but where are the precautions in these announcements? Where are the human stories? Or, have we decided that sales and bean-counting are all that matter? Everyone reporting from Greece these days seems to be avoiding the obvious.