Greece Hopes COVID Omicron Variant Not Omega for Tourism

ATHENS – Just as hopes were jumping about a bigger-than-expected rise in tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers are falling as the health crisis worsens and fears over the effect of the new Omicron Variant that has arrived.

Only about 62 percent of Greece’s population of 10.7 million people has been fully vaccinated, below the 70 percent that health officials said was needed to slow the pandemic and shots required only for health workers and over-60’s.

Countries with lower vaccination rates are at risk of losing tourists, the biggest revenue engine for Greece, bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 177.26 billion euros ($200.3 billion) annually.

That warning came from Canada’s DBRS Morningstar credit rating agency that showed how tourism had gone up markedly in the summer, especially in Greece which was the first to welcome tourists.

While the data showed that continued through October, the numbers fell in November as Greece’s vaccination campaign stalled and cases, hospitalizations, people on ventilators and deaths hit record numbers.

Tourism officials had said that arrivals and revenues could hit 75 percent of the record levels of 2019 but now there’s said to be worry whether that will level off or decline.

Germany, one of the biggest markets for tourists for Greece, came through big time, providing 95 percent of the 2019 numbers from July to September and those from France were more, and Americans providing a big boost.

“DBRS Morningstar expects the tourism sector to continue on a recovery path in 2022, with the epidemiological situation not only in Europe but also globally playing an important role,”said Spyridoula Tzima, Assistant Vice President at DBRS Morningstar, reported Kathimerini.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant has raised concerns and shows clearly that the virus will continue to pose risks to international tourism unless a high rate of effective vaccination globally is reached,” she said.

“Perceptions of a threat of wider restrictions on travel between EU and non-EU markets could stall the recovery for the remainder of the year, but this is mitigated by the fact that the majority of tourism flows are intra-European,” added Tzima.

DBRS Morningstar Vice President Javier Rouillet said that, “With the summer season behind us, the better-than-expected recovery in tourism to Greece and Cyprus should help them recover part of the lost ground,” the paper reported.



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