Santorini, one of the world’s most popular islands has turned from trying to limit tourists to beckoning them with beach lounge chairs surrounded by plexiglass screens, a precaution against the COVID-19 Coronavirus once a lockdown is lifted.
Officials and business owners hope safety features will persuade people it’s safe to visit once year-round hotels open on June 1, season hotels later and with the New Democracy government hoping tourism can begin in July.
The island has been so overrun in recent years that officials were going to restrict how many cruise ships could dock and even locals dependent on tourism revenues said there were just too many.
That’s changed with fears almost nobody will come in the aftermath of COVID-19 while the government is setting health protocols to convince visitors it will be safe to visit Greece, which had one of the best records in the world in dealing with the pandemic.
“We hope these constructions you see are not going to be the future for beaches. We don’t want this, but if this is necessary, and if this is what people’s safety depends on, such a construction or any such construction – we (just) want to work, we want to get going,” beach bar owner Charlie Chahine told the news agency Reuters.
In 2018 some two million people came to the volcanic island that is a popular destination for honeymoons and weddings, especially among Asian couples.
Now the streets and rooftop terraces on the cliffside that made Santorini one of the biggest Instagram shots in the world are eerily near-empty.
The Vice-President of the Santorini Hotel Association Andreas Patiniotis told the news agency that while hotels were 70 percent full last June that the expectations are for only 30 percent this year, although flights aren’t allowed yet.
“I believe we have to start somewhere, so that there is work for our suppliers, for our employees. There are so many people that depend on hotels,” he said, which aren’t allowed to open for year-round facilities until June 1, and sometime later for seasonal businesses.