ATHENS – Despite estimates that tourism could drop off as much as 70 percent because the COVID-19 Coronavirus has closed hotels and most international air travel, Greece's Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis is still hoping for a July rebound, especially from British travelers.
Greece had almost four million visitors from the United Kingdom in 2019 during another record-breaking year and was expecting that to continue before COVID-19 hit and Greece was put under an essential lockdown.
British travelers are especially keen on package deals, especially to islands such as Kos, Santorini and especially Zakynthos, known for drawing drunks and hooligans and where an American tourist was killed by a gang, mostly from Serbia.
Theoharis told SKAI TV that the focus was now on ensuring the season began in July and ran at the very least through to September, even if many hotels don't reopen this year – or ever again.
"As time passes demand will rise because trust will rise too. Cancellations have now stopped,” he said although hotels are scrambling to find some way to make their facilities clean to lure people wary of traveling again.
Theoharis said he would talk to tourism operators about health measures as some hotel chains said they are going almost touch-proof, using cleaning crews in between rentals and cleaning linen more often, while also closing their restaurants.
Greece is also considering enforcing "health passports" which would see tourists tested for the virus before boarding a flight to the country, the British newspaper The Sun said as it reported on interest from the UK about returning to Greece.
Theoharis said it was just "being discussed," adding: "Of course we have to agree with other EU countries and that is why we are pushing for us all to sit around the table to discuss (this prospect.)”
"What people and tour operators are waiting for, is for us to all agree on health safeguard procedures and the announcement of a clear time-table so that we can start opening hotels,” he added.
“In my view if we go about (conducting) tests country-by-country it will be very difficult, but if we all agree from the start then we could do them at entry points … at the airport … It would, to give it a name, be a health passport of sorts.”