Here in Greece, dozens of demonstrations have taken place over the past month owing largely to citizens being fed up with stringent lockdown measures instituted to push back the coronavirus. At the same time, any more areas of the country have been labeled Covid-19 ‘dark red’ level (very high-risk) as the rise in cases rises. Meanwhile, Greece tourism ministry is busy announcing the country will be welcoming the world starting 58 days from now. The mixed signals have everyone confused and on edge.
Yesterday, I wrote a report about how Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis seems to been put in charge of vaccine rollout in Greece. That story is about Greece prioritizing the vaccination program for small island communities, in lieu of doubling down in “red cities” and for “at-risk” people. In short, thousands of doses of the vaccine have been administered in remote island communities in order to make them more easily marketable, while hundreds of at-risk people contract the disease each week elsewhere in Greece.
The reasoning for the seemingly insane vaccination plan is very unclear, but the country has been marketing a “tourism in 2021 no matter what” track for some time now. And with the vaccine rolling out far slower than was planned, the situation gets more volatile with each passing day. Here in Heraklion, protests by the Union Workers of PAGNI Hospital, call to the forefront the inefficiencies of the government bureaucracy, as well as the overall fatigue with the lockdown situation. Crete TV reports.
Now, the Mitsotakis government is blaming political opponents for stirring up demonstrations, rather than taking responsibility for the complete muck up Greece’s pandemic response has become. Prime Minister Mitsotakis has been calling for calm, but the people are tired of the knee-jerk strategies and mixed signals. And Greeks are particularly fed up with their businesses going bankrupt and staying home, while officials in Athens plot out grand tourism reboot schemes with corporate giants like TUI and the hotel owners dependent on touristic flows.
The bottom line is, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis is running around playing cheerleader for the Mitsotakis administration’s Summer 2020 tourism remake, at the exact moment the infection rate in Greece exceeded those of Britain and the United States. According to Theoharis, Greece will be wide open for tourists starting in May, but people in our network of friends are two months out on the list for at-risk people to be vaccinated.
Make note here, this is the “high risk” group two months out, not the average citizen on the streets where UK travelers will shop and sightsee if TUI and the other tour companies have anything to say. This is why I think the government shifted to smaller islands to be totally vaccinated because Athens knows the whole country will not be vaccinated anytime soon.
As Greeks begin rebelling against the authorities over the situation, TUI has about three or four months left before the giant tours company burns through remaining cash from recent loans. The company’s shares are a definitive “sell” advisors by Goldman Sachs and the other big financial players, and the company just announced curing back its river cruise fleet as well. To make matters even worse, the news that Cyprus has put the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold until a review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) determines whether or not the version of the COVID-19 vaccine is safe or not. Greece opted for this much cheaper vaccine over the other variants from Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna or even the not-yet EU-approved Sputnik V from Russia.
The problem in Greece is, ironically, not all about Greeks. I’ve mentioned TUI’s undue influence on what goes on in the country many times, but news British Prime Minister Boris Johnson started guaranteeing COVID-19 passports really caused a dangerous trend here in Greece.
Since Johnson made a statement saying vaccine passports for international travel will be “a feature of our life in the future”, TUI has seen a 500% surge in bookings overnight to Greece, Spain, and Turkey. TUI is already offering £100 off to resorts like the TUI BLUE Atlantica Creta Paradise here on Crete at Chania, the Blue Lagoon Resort on Kos, and TUI SENSATORI Atlantica Caldera Palace in Heraklion, Crete, to name a very few.
When I lay out this report on my computer desktop and try and collate all the information, a devastating reality sinks in. It’s a reality I should not be surprised by, since I write about corporate pressures, sustainability, and how places like Crete need to adapt to survive all the time. The reality is this. These people, and I mean the politicians and their corporate/investor handlers, have every intention of cramming budget travelers into these destinations as fast and furiously as they can. Their narratives about how the pandemic has taught lessons and how the industry will emerge stronger are just PR, lies, and a marketing pitch for all-inclusive trips that destroy destinations.
But, the level of callousness and greed during this distressing time of insecurity and danger, it’s just intolerable for me. How does it help the taverna owner or shopkeeper in Crete, if TUI flies two people from England who can only afford £ 371 each for accommodations, and breakfast, including the flight for a week in Chania? Think about this. The hotel or apartment owner gets to pay their mortgage. Locals get to clean up the beer cans off the beaches. It just occurred to me, why doesn’t the German travel company buy 20 doses of the cheap AstraZeneca vaccine to give customers instead of the 100 off deal? Ah, that would be a new-age marketing campaign.
And the profits go to investors in a German tours giant or the Russian oligarch who controls TUI! Meanwhile, somebody, maybe just one someone, succumbs to COVID-19 or a riot in Athens, all because a humanistic approach was not taken.
Here are all your TUI Summer 2021 holiday deals with a special discount, just in case the politicians can actually deliver on their promises. Use code SUMMER100