ATHENS – Although Greece has temporarily closed its visa office in China over fears of the coronavirus spreading, keeping away visitors from that country, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis downplayed the effect.
He said he still expects that nearly 500,000 Chinese will come to Greece – if the virus abates and they’re allowed in, but said their numbers are relatively small who have come annually the past half dozen years during a record run of tourism seasons.
Speaking on state broadcaster ERT, Theocharis said some “60 to 70 percent of bookings from China have been canceled to date,” but rejected the idea of “the direct flights between Athens and Shanghai being reconsidered.”
He said the impact on Greek tourism will likely be very small as “out of the 31.35 million tourists we had last year, not including the 5.5 million cruise passengers, only 200,000 were Chinese. Therefore we are only talking about a delay in the growth of a market that is still opening up, so it won’t have such a negative impact on the Greek tourism product,” he said.
There could even be a positive bounce for Greece over fears of the virus, now named Covid-19, if people cancel trips to the Far East and choose the Eastern Mediterranean instead, especially with Greece being chosen by readers of the site Insider as the number one destination.