ATHENS – After a run of consecutive record years for tourism was busted by COVID-19 this year, visitors staying away in droves, Greece's New Democracy government is eagerly looking toward summer 2021 to hope the pandemic ends and they return.
Projections are for a recovery although all bets would be off if the Coronavirus mutates or spikes again although the arrival of vaccines has given new hope that the end next year will in sight for the health crisis.
There are expectations, said Kathimerini, for a comeback after visitors from so many countries, especially the United States, were barred because of high levels of the virus there, and with international air traffic all but stopping in mid-flight.
Tourism is Greece's biggest revenue engine, with more than 30 million visitors a year producing 18-20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of some 162.78 billion euros ($200.3 billion) annually.
Yannis Retsos, head of the country's tourism confederation (SETE) said tourism revenues this year had reached only 4 billion euros ($4.92 billion,) down from 18 billion euros ($22.15 billion) in 2019, due to global travel restrictions.
Greece expects its economy to shrink by about 10 percent this year and estimates for 2019 vary from an anemic 0.9 percent to a little higher, worry about what the first half will show.
"We need to wait for the second half of the year to see some sort of action in tourism," Retsos told a Greek radio station. "Anything we see from May on would be a very positive surprise," he said.
Based on official data from the Bank of Greece, tourism arrivals fell 76 percent in the January-to-October period, further battering an economy driven down by two lockdowns extending into the new year.