Greece’s Minister of Tourism Harry Theoharis is courting German tourists to help rescue Summer 2020, claiming the central European country is “our best tourism partner.” According to a report from Kathimerini which cited German newspaper “Bild am Sonntag”, the German tourists are eyeballing Greece as first among locations to visit for vacation.
Meanwhile, British tourists seem to be headed for holidays in Greece without restrictions from June 1, according to the Greek government. Last week, Athens authorities announced plans to reopen its tourism sector in three stages which could see free travel to the country from the start of next month. And Brits love Greece based on last year’s over 4 million visitors from the British isles.
Experts warn that Greece hotels and other businesses cannot pin too many hopes on British or German tourists, Germany, or visitors from anywhere else unless airlines are willing to ferry travelers to the southern European vacation destination. We spoke briefly this week with Lefteris Vantarakis, owner of several of Crete’s successful hotels. According to Mr. Vantarakis:
“The welfare of our team and guest is and always has been of most importance for us. For the time being, our hotels are still closed and we are working meticulously on the re-opening of Anemos Luxury Grand Resort, Mythos Palace Resort & Spa, Pepper Sea Club Hotel, and Eliros Mare Hotel.”
Mr. Vantarakis went on to say his team is “working under the guidance of the World Health Organisation, industry experts and local authorities, to fine-tune strict security and hygiene protocols. He says the ultimate goal is to offer guests a stay with “peace of mind” once his hotels are finally open.
Here on Crete locals are out in force since Monday’s phased opening of businesses. Heraklion, in particular, has come to life after weeks of lockdown. Next Monday, Athens has granted permission to all tourism workers to travel to Crete and other islands to start summer jobs at resorts and other businesses. If all goes well, there will be no restrictions on travel both to and from mainland Greece and the islands from June 1. Theoharis told reporters:
“Of course, we will take precautions in terms of the requirements before traveling. But also in the way that we travel. Social distancing rules will apply but we want to continue showing the kind of hospitality we’re known for.”
Tourism to Greece is expected to return to some sort of normality by sometime in June since German airline Lufthansa has confirmed that all commercial flights from Frankfurt to Athens will recommence as normal on Monday.
The Bild am Sonntag has put out a six-page spread on holiday options for travelers, titled “Is the summer saved?” Mr. Theoharis also told reporters Athens is pushing for common European Union rules on how to keep tourists safe from COVID-19 as they travel. The minister said what’s needed is a set of protocols that would mean no unnecessary quarantine, either at their destination or when they return home.
Theoharis was also quoted saying Greece visitors need to be able to unwind at the beach and not constantly be worried if the person under the sunshade next to them has the infection. Here on Crete, and at other Aegean islands, the possibility of remote beaches and nature adventures away from crowds adds a layer of confidence as well.
To date, Greece has managed to keep coronavirus to a minimum inside its borders, as of this writing the country there have been no registered deaths since Sunday. As of yesterday, the Ministry of Health said Greece has only had 2,726 cases compared to less strict countries like Sweden with similar populations seeing 3,256 die from COVID-19 complications.
Finally, the WTTC has just published the Safe Travels Global Protocols which follow recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Given the expected lower volume of tourists to Greece and other such destinations, 2020 may turn out to be a memorable vacation season for some, after all.