ATHENS – As the world concentrates on survival from the dreaded COVID-19 Coronavirus, hotels across Greece shut down on March 23, shelving the critical tourism sector that is the country’s biggest revenue provider, setting in stage an almost certain recession again.
Greece was just showing signs of accelerating a recovery from a near decade-long austerity and economic crisis when the disease spread after beginning at an open air exotic food market in Wuhan, China, likely spread by a bat infecting an animal eaten by a human.
Hotels in areas dependent on tourism, such as the Peloponnese and the country’s former capital of Naufplio, have now lost their sources of income as virtually in Greece are not shut down apart from those who already had guests and will have a week to comply.
Others that will be allowed to stay open are those holding members of the Armed Forces, medical workers or refugees and migrants, while the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels will draw up a list of three hotels per prefecture that will stay open from those interested.
Tourism makes up as much as one-fourth of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 181.51 billion euros ($200.3 billion,) bringing up to to 45.37 billion euros ($50.07) in critical revenues and as Greece is facing strong challenges from rival tourism countries.
In January, Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis – before news broke about the breakout of the then-called Coronavirus in China that spread around the globe – said Greece was counting on another big bump in tourism for 2020 after forging ahead with plans to make the country a year-round destination and not just a summer fun playplace anymore.
Tourism employs about 20 percent of the workforce of about 4.32 million people, with some 1.08 million working in the sector that has enjoyed a string of record seasons that was a critical buffer for the devastating economic and austerity crisis.