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Greece Expects Waves of American Tourists to Return This Summer

ATHENS — Shut out as the COVID-19 pandemic raged in 2020, American tourists eager to vacation in Greece will be allowed in this summer as vaccination programs are stepping up in both countries.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said travel will be possible for all tourists this summer, irrespective of their country of residence if they meet certain conditions for safety.

“Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021,” Theocharis said. “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing.”

He said tourism is expected to begin on May 15, said the news agency Reuters, the New Democracy government eager to kick start the country's biggest revenue engine.

Foreign visitors had flooded the country in a consecutive run of record years before the pandemic hit and account for up to 20 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 167.39 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)

Nearly 33 million came during 2019's banner year before tourism was brought to a near standstill in 2020 with international air traffic almost halting and people afraid to travel.

The United States is a key market for Greece tourism, bolstered by Greek-Americans who annually return to the homeland but weren't able to come in 2020,  eager to get back to see family and friends. 

Emirates recently announced it would be reinstating its route connecting Newark, New Jersey with Athens and American Airlines will have non-stop flights beginning in June between the cities.

The European Union said it would also adopt an idea from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for COVID-19 certificates that would speed entry into the bloc's member states for those showing they have been vaccinated.

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