Last week Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis defended Greece’s reopening of the country’s tourism market at a critical moment in the fight to minimize damage by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The minister justified the move for economic reasons.
Fencing questions about the advisability of Greece’s reopening in the face of a resurgence of cases, ended his defense saying “the numbers of Greece’s 2020 tourism performance will show a “positive sign” at the end of the year.”
The tourism chief created a rationale to defend the administrations reopening moves using cases in other countries. GTP cited him addressing Parliament with this:
“I have the data of ELSTAT to present, which shows a 15.2 percent drop (in GDP) in the second quarter for our country, while other tourism destinations had a larger decline in GDP, for example, Spain by 22.1 percent and Italy by 17.3 percent.”
The GTP report here does not address Theoharis’ position on the cental issue, which is the growing possibility the government’s move could prove disastrous to tourism and to the economy in the long run. Theoharis also says nothing about the rising number of sick people, the climbing death toll, or the economic effects of Greece reputation ultimately being ruined.
Between June 15 – 30, international flights to Athens and Thessaloniki started running again. At this point, the total number of confirmed cases was 3134, with 184 total deaths. All throughout July the numbers continued to rise in small increments until early August, when the increase took on geometric proportions. By August 1st, the 3,134 number had risen to 4587, but by August 26, that number had doubled. By August 31st it had nearly tripled.
In June, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) began a series of marketing campaigns to attract tourists. There was “Destination Greece. Health First,” the “Enjoy your stay – Stay safe” campaign, the “Restart Tourism” one, the strategic partnership with TUI, the “Greek Summer” campaign, and then “Greece: More Than a Destination” in July, and others. The push to reopen was “massive,”to say the least. And most people in Greece supported the reopening with guarded optimism. But to defend the move now, when the obvious mistake is in front of us?
As for economics, I am sure nobody knows the end of COVID-19 economically or in terms of human costs yet. So, defending at this point would seem unwise no matter what. That is, unless Mr. Theoharis has a crystal ball.