It’s the Big Question for Greece: will tourists come?
As lockdowns in many countries around the world aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus are cautiously being pulled back, Greece hopes international air traffic will resume in full swing and people persuaded it’s safe to visit this summer.
Year-round hotels will open on June 1 and seasonal hotels after that, all required to maintain strict health protocols that could see the number of guests limited and the rich catered to in a bid to salvage the summer season starting in July.’
A detailed plan put together by the Tourism Ministry and the National Public Health Organization (EODY), and seen by Kathimerini, showed the government being very cautious at the same time trying to persuade people they will be safe.
Besides hotels, health measures are in place for other tourist accommodations as well as ferries and all forms of public transportation and will be for restaurants, marinas and beaches when they reopen.
All riders on public transport must use a face mask at least until June 15 when the condition will be reviewed, while workers at hotels and other tourist businesses must also use the mask and be trained in how to keep people the safe social distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart if possible.
The workers also will need to know how to respond in case of a suspected infection and the hotels must have a doctor on site to do diagnostic tests for the virus to prevent the places from becoming hot beds for a resurgence.
Staff will also be obliged to reside in single rooms and have their temperature taken daily to check for fever, a common symptom of the virus while common areas are to be disinfected regularly and safe distances applied in dining areas and around swimming pools, the paper said of the plan.
One proposal reportedly being considered by the government is to only accept tourists if they have undergone a test for COVID-19 and tested negative although Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said other countries should do the same for travelers boarding planes and public transportation.
Tourists arriving in Greece would have their temperatures taken and must have a health certificate showing they are healthy and free of the virus although in the United States tests are still not available to all who want them and Americans are a key market.
If tourists fall ill during their stay they would be moved into special COVID-19 quarantine facilities contracted with the state to hold them.
Mitsotakis is still pressing the European Union, notorious for lagging, to come up with a uniform plan for health protocols among the 27 member states to allow safe travel between them, a scheme expected to come soon.
The government is also said to be pondering the temporary reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) for restaurants, bars and cafes once they reopen.
Tourism brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 185.17 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and is the biggest revenue engine for an economy that was just starting to recover faster from a near decade-long crisis when the COVID-19 virus hit the country.