ATHENS – The deadly coronavirus outbreak that began in China has seen almost 70 percent of expected Chinese visitors to Greece cancel their plans to come although Greek officials said they didn’t expect that would be costly.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis, speaking on state broadcaster ERT earlier, downplayed the loss of the Chinese tourists whose numbers were growing at the same time Chinese companies were looking to step up investments in Greece.
“Greece last year received 31,350,000 tourists – not counting 5.5 million cruise passengers – and of those visitors, only 200,000 were Chinese, which is a small figure,” the minister said, referring to China as a “market still opening up” to Greece.
He said the loss of the Chinese tourists “does not affect the Greek tourism product so negatively” and the goal still remains to have 500,000 Chinese tourists in 2021 as a rebound but he didn’t say whether this year’s loss would stop a record run of tourism seasons.
“What matters both for the health of our population and for the wider image of our country is to shield ourselves against this virus. The most important thing – more important than any cancellation – is that our country shows that it is safe and that the measures we are taking are capable of protecting us,” he stressed.
While the virus fears led Greece to temporarily close its visa office in China, keeping Chinese tourists from coming, he said that the cancellation of some cruise ships to Asian destinations has seen at least one, the Norwegian Cruise Line to come to the port of Piraeus.
“Another positive impact is that many European tourists that had chosen Asia as their destination will now switch to new markets,” Theoharis said, adding that Greece is seeing a rise in bookings and therefore the “picture is positive.”