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Greece Hopes June Will See Russian, UK Tourists Coming

ATHENS — With all eyes on July in hopes it will bring a flood of foreign travelers during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece's tourism ministry is looking to Russia and the United Kingdom to let its residents come in June and lift a bar.

The UK has Greece in a category which requires travelers on their return to quarantine for at least five days, a marked disincentive for them to visit, while Russia has limited the number of flights to Greece, concerned about whether it's safe despite falling cases.

The UK is likely to change the classification of some Greek destinations, particularly islands, into a safe category the first week of June which could open the door for Britons to come without worrying about a return quarantine.

Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis is expected to have a teleconference  then with the Joint Chairman of the interministerial committee of Greece and Russia, Russian Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev, to see when more Russian flights may be coming, said Kathimerini.

The scientific advisory committees of the two countries have also been talking and sources not identified told the newspaper that it appears Russia will be adding flights to Greece.

But Greece had demanded sanctions on Belarus, a Russian ally, over the forced landing of a flight from Greece to Lithuania so that a dissident journalist could be arrested and there is concern Russia will take umbrage over that.

That could soften Greece's hard line as the government needs Russian tourists more than a political tough line against Belarus, with Russia being a key market that could make or break June for Greece's tourism businesses, the paper said.

The UK is also a prime target and there are expectations that if the go-ahead is given that there will be masses of Britons coming, with Greece also wooing foreigners to islands in the Dodacanese chain.

Tourist flows to rise to significant levels in late June or early July

Tourist industry officials and organisation are predicted that tourist flows to Greece from abroad will start to pick up significantly from late June or early July onward, the deputy president of the Greek hoteliers union Christina Tetradi told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency. She reported a "nonexistent" May and very few bookings in June, with most hotels having put off their opening until the middle of that month.

Roughly 10 percent of hotels have opened after the official start of the tourism season, Tetradi noted, with most waiting until the coast becomes clear with respect to Greece's main markets, which are the UK, Germany, Russia and Scandinavian countries. Meanwhile, tour operators were pressing for ever lower prices and their flights were arriving with few passengers on board.

It was essential for Greece to become green on the ECDC map, she emphasised, saying this will be the deciding factor for the last-minute travellers. She highlighted June 7 as a key date, when the UK will announce whether Greece will go 'green' for Britons, meaning that they don't have to quarantine on their return.

The season has also got off to a slow start on Rhodes, where only 25 of its 650 hotels are now open, while roughly a quarter are open in Heraklion on Crete.

According to Michalis Vamiedakis, founder of a hotel chain and the Deltanet Travel agency, another key factor would be avoiding bad developments on the pandemic front in October and November, when the flight planning for the following year is done and hoteliers and travel agents start negotiations for new contracts and bookings in 2022.

Mayors in smaller island destinations, meanwhile, reported a more hopeful picture and said that the fast vaccination on islands, combined with low cases, have generate confidence, with bookings coming from Greece, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Balkan markets, in July and August.

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