Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis says he expects Greece to be on the UK’s “Green List” soon. The ministers worldwide jaunt to drum up tourists to visit Greece this summer takes him to London next week, in the wake of devastating Brit tourists cancellations over his country’s amber listing.
Greece was miraculously granted the Global Champion Award for Covid-19 Crisis Management by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) last month. This was true because the 2021 Greece summer is the best laboratory experiment going, for an overall redux of tourism in 2021. If Greece fails, the chances of Spain, Italy, or other European nations pumping up traveler volumes will be nil. And who better to test a magnanimous EU plan than the already subjugated Greeks? The GTP report on this cites Theoarris saying:
“Tourism is an international activity based on trust, which is why it is also essential to work together on a European level or even beyond.”
And “beyond” seems to be where Theoharis and his boss Mitsotakis are taking their cues. The minister referred to Greece’s leading role in making post-Covid-19 tourism possible in the EU, including being the first country to implement the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) form and the ΑΙ machine learning system at its borders.
But what most media and the Athens government fail to mention is that Greece was one of the few countries even to consider a 2020 tourist season given the devastation of the pandemic. Officials in Greece are also hesitant to be held accountable for the second wave of coronavirus that was certainly worse because of the actual effects of the hasty reopening. Greek officials continue to pump their chests over Greece’s early successes against the pandemic while refusing to come to terms with their ill-advised reopening.
Theoharis and the other New Democracy leadership harp about tourism being based on trust when the overreaching PR narrative is continually proved false. If Athens is not blaming young Greeks for the second wave, officials are padding COVID-19, hotelier, and industry outlook news to reflect a fantasy reboot for tourism. The economic aspects of the crisis have already far outweighed the importance of the human condition in Greece. In a health emergency, Greece’s leadership has put fiscal matters at the forefront all along. From dinosaur IT systems incapable of ensuring vaccine scheduling to lunatic rollout plans that immunized the places at lowest risk first, the government has fumbled at every turn.
Now, with hoteliers scarcely able to pay their electric bills, the genius summer tourism extravaganza is set to fly or flop, depending mainly on a roll of the dice. In two days, the grand opening by Theoharis will be a neon flashing traffic light telling every Greece resident there’s an “all clear” to do live as normal. Like 2020, this season is about minuscule chances for business to return to normal, at the risk of destroying millions of lives. At least, this is how many people see it.
Greece has been placed on the UK’s ‘amber’ list, meaning that the quarantine rule will apply to people returning to the UK after the Greece Summer Vacation is done. All those juicy announcements about UK bookings in May and June were just flushed down the COVID toilet, and the tone from Athens is still pie in the sky.
ForwardKeys data released before the UK’s “amber” announcement showed Greek destination bookings running between 32.8 percent and 52.9 percent of 2019 figured for this time in the pre-season. These numbers were based mainly on UK and US travelers. UK people won’t be booking until Greece is green, and US travelers are still not advised to fly to Greece. Theoharis must be basing the government’s positivity here on a coin flip. And looking at these numbers by vested parties, they are all tilted. Take CheapOair’s assertion that American bookings to Greece are up a whopping 337%! That’s compared to January figures when hardly a single soul was headed to Greece from the US for any reason.
Finally, the real impetus for this Greek gamble can more readily be seen if we look at the 2% loss TUI stocks just took on account of a whopping 1.5 billion euro loss for the first half of 2021. And the bookings for the biggest tour operator in the world are down 69% compared to 2019, which means somebody else is juggling the numbers to suit a narrative. And finally, this report from The Points Guy tells the real story. Americans flying to Greece and making a difference is just not going to happen soon enough to matter.
So, it would be excellent from my perspective if these officials, and the media outlets that get paid by them to parrot their narrative, would make an effort to portray the whole picture for us. As a consumer advocate, you cannot imagine what it is like watching all the manipulation. I won’t get into the specifics, but the news most people read is a form of advertisement, pure and simple. Next week I’ll be in the streets of Heraklion asking retailers and other citizens how the Greece Summer is going so far. Stay tuned.