During Pandemic, Tourists Think Greece, Athens Safe to Visit

Αssociated Press

FILE- A man walks at Filopappos hill as at the background is seen the ancient Acropolis hill, in Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - Despite a lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, tourists believe Greece and Athens wouldn’t be risky to visit, good news as the country hopes to rebound from a disastrous 2020 and see people come again.

The sense of safety, with now tougher health measures in place, were cited as the second most important reason to visit Athens, after its archaeological sites and its culture, according to a survey by the capital’s hoteliers.

The Visitor Satisfaction and Hotel Performance survey by the Athens-Attica and Argosaronic Hoteliers Association found that 43 percent of visitors to the capital in 2020  chose it as a safe destination, with 60 percent of 18-25 year-olds feeling that way, said Kathimerini in a report.

Tourists said they were well-informed about Greece’s health protocols to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and they were aligned with Greeks in believing hotels were safe, as were scenic sites, restaurants and taxis, but public transport got low marks.

Some 73 percent of those who did manage to come in 2020, a year when people from countries hit the hardest by the virus - including the United States - said Greece and Athens were not a particular health hazard.

The survey also found those who did come opened their wallets and spent, a critical finding as tourism is the country’s biggest revenue engine, bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 164.7 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)

The visitors spent on average 115 euros ($139.86) per person but so few people came after a run for record years consecutively - with international air traffic all but ceased - that tourism revenue losses were staggering.

With hotels closed most of the previous 12 months, the occupancy rate in the capital was only 19.7 percent, costing the market in the prefecture of Attica, which includes Athens, some 700 million euros ($851.3 million.)