It’s only Wednesday, and I do not know where to start with the bad news from Greece’s tourism industry. If the reader can imagine Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis running around Greece in a fireman’s helmet, perhaps this imagery would be a good start.
Let’s begin with the island of Samos, only recently hit by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake and mini-tsunami. News from GTP tells us that Mr. Theoharis was there meeting with still more hoteliers, promising big promotions of the island in the coming season. As if Theoharis or anyone in Greece knows how to plan for 2021, a meeting with Samos & Ikaria Hoteliers Association President Manos Valis was sure to make things “all better” for the devastated businesses on that island. Theoharis also managed to squeeze the buzz term “sustainable” into the news about Samos’ future. Somehow I have a vision of Santorini being announced as a travel Mecca, right after the Thera volcano blows Atlantis to bits.
Switching gears, news that the Piraeus Port Authority and Attica Region are partnering to make cruise travel safer seems a bit crazy in the wake of a tidal wave of COVID cases surging, and the probability that many Greek businesses will soon shutter their doors forever. A reboot of the cruise industry in the Mediterranean or anywhere just makes no sense at all if you are not a TUI executive or a German banker. Now the Chinese enter the game promising to make a dead industry come back alive? PPA BoD Chairman Yu Zenggang said:
“This initiative, implemented in cooperation with the Region of Attica, once again confirms that our main concern was and remains to ensure and protect the health of all visitors and employees in the port of Piraeus.”
Hello! A countrywide lockdown seems imminent. The number of cases is approaching 50,000 as compared to 4,000 just before the first lockdown. Fleets of gigantic cruise ships are being sent to Aliaga, Turkey to be scrapped, and executives are still meeting as if nothing ever happened? As if tomorrow the world will be desperate to float around in lavish, jam-packed seaborn Petrie dishes! What is wrong with this picture?
Just this morning, it was announced that 2166 new cases were diagnosed in Greece, with 40 of them detected at the entry points of the country. Deaths are spiking, as well as the number of people being put on machines in ICUs, and the only thing that seems to matter to tourism leaders are the number of hoteliers and tour operators begging assistance. When does the news arrive that all resources, public and private, have been brought to bear to eradicate cases? How can schools and restaurants be closing, and tourism officials still welcome travelers from COVID-stricken nations?
Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis are now stranded in Thessaloniki because Greece and Israelis officials pushed to reopen tourism between the two countries. I wonder who had those travelers’ well-being in mind when the 2020 vacation redux took place?
I am sure the reader gets the point. Sure, government and business have to move forward with a positive outlook. Some experts say that COVID-19 will cost humanity almost $20 trillion by the time all is said and done. But moving forward as if the coronavirus pandemic ended months ago? We cannot go forward with blinders on, nor can we undervalue human lives and suffering. To refocus on Greece, let me end this report with a quote from Greece Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis from a few days ago:
“Βig travel giants such as TUI, DER, JET2 and FTI are extending their programs until late November for the first time and possibly into December, depending on the development of the health situation.”
Theoharis was even bragging about reopening the country to cruises, and how revenue for 2020 was never the goal, but quality tourism experiences for travelers. Yes, you read that correctly. TUI and the other “giants” are extending the tourism season in Greece because travelers deserve the best! Oh, brother.