ATHENS — It's a far cry from the record of 33 million in 2019 but Greece so far during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 has drawn more then 6 million tourists and their revenues critical to an economy battered by lockdowns.
Just before he was replaced, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis told SchengenVisaInfo.com that in the essential summer months of July and August that more than two million arrived even with conditions they be vaccinated, have a negative molecular test or proof of having recovered from the Coronavirus.
“For the first time, our country surpassed France itself as a favorite destination for the French. That is, the French traveled more to Greece than to their own country. This is a very important development,” Theocharis said.
He also noted that more than 450,000 French tourists visited the Greek islands this summer with Greece a world hot spot and being one of the first countries to welcome visitors, beginning in July.
Theocharis also pointed out that an increase was detected in domestic tourism with Greeks reluctant to travel internationally and sticking with their homeland as a destination for them.
“They helped in this program ‘Tourism for All’, as well as the program Social Tourism. We intend to expand these programs as much as possible. We will use them as much as we can, we will keep them alive in the coming years because we saw that they had a substantial result,” Theocharis said, speaking of the tourism program, which will be valid until December 31.
The program announced in June aimed to allocate a 30 million euros ($35.46 million fund for 250,000 Greeks to be able to enjoy vacations in the islands, although the virus spread there as tourism workers weren't required to be vaccinated.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Greece has vaccinated 65.8 per cent of its population with the first dose of the COVID vaccine and that 63.4 percent have been fully vaccinated, short of the 70 percent goal that health authorities said is needed to beat back the pandemic.
The Financial Times reported that Greece welcomed the most tourists in Europe, about 25 per cent more than Spain, which is the country’s long time competitor in tourism.
The Greek Aviation Authority said the air traffic during the first half of the year increased by 146.8 compared to 2020 but down 63.5 percent compared to the previous record year.