May 15th, Greece will fling open its doors to tourists from many overseas destinations, including from the United States. The country jumped ahead of most European nations with the tourism restart and the early campaigning to lure travelers. Even with the country’s hospitals taxed by COVID, and with three-quarters of Greeks still unvaccinated, the plan moves forward as of Saturday.
News that Britain has classified Greece as an “amber” destination now has caused a rash of cancellations from tourists how have already booked Greek vacations. With stricter COVID guidelines for their returns home, most travelers are not willing or able to undergo quarantines and other measures the government has in place. And as for American tourists, the fact the U.S. State Department recently added Greece to its long list of countries with the designation “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” has cast a shadow on Greece’s expectations there. Greek tourism officials say that — with social distancing measures and testing protocols, alongside the warming weather — tourism in the country will be safe.
Finally, Greek officials have already allowed so-called organized beaches to reopen as of last weekend. The government is going all-in betting on an accelerated vaccination program to slow the pandemic. Relaxing lockdown restrictions has already caused a spike in cases in some areas, and here in Heraklion, it’s now an oddity to even see citizens wearing masks. Overall, however, cases over the past 24 hours are about half what they were daily for the past week. Still, the psychology of wishy-washy lockdown-freedom policy, the die-hard move to restart Greece tourism, and general distrust of government have now combined in a kind of perfect storm of resistance.