ATHENS – After the opening of the international airports outside the Greek capital and Thessaloniki on June 15, regional airports opened on July 1 but with so few flights – 104 – it was the lowest number of arrivals in decades.
Some 150 flights had been expected but the European Union has barred visitors from the United States because of that country’s soaring COVID-19 rate, while Greece for now is also keeping out tourists from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Sweden, and Russia, holding down hope for a recovery.
Greece locked down on March 23 to prevent the spread of the virus and didn’t begin gradual reopenings of non-essential businesses weekly starting May 4 although the pandemic hasn’t yet been erased despite the country having one of the safest records in the world.
The regional airports opening were in Thessaloniki, Hania, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Corfu, Aktio, Skiathos, Kavala, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Mytilene and Samos, some of the key islands hoping people will come.
The total number of arrivals in the whole of July last year at these 14 regional airports was 20,777 or approximately 670 on a daily basis, said Kathimerini in a report on the diminished figures.
Airport operators and tourism operators are concerned about flight cancellations, which can take place up to 24 hours before takeoff according to the cancellation regulation of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the unknown factor whether people feel it’s safe to fly yet.
Visitors from 29 countries were allowed on June 15 and now, following the EU’s recommendations, Greece is opening to travelers from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, Morocco and The Vatican.
China, another important and growing market, and where businesses have been looking to invest in Greece, will also be allowed but only if China agrees to admit tourists from the EU.
But all tourists coming into Greece must, 48 hours before departure, get a special form on the travel.gov.gr platform with details including the traveler’s country of origin, stays in other countries and their accommodation address in Greece as part of measures to prevent the virus from spreading again.
While the major US carrier Delta, which has non-stop flights from New York’s JFK to Athens, was shut out for now, airlines allowed to land now included Lufthansa flying from Munich to Rhodes and Corfu and Hungary’s Wizz Air operating flights to Thessaloniki, Iraklio, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes and Zakynthos while Alitalia is reconnecting Athens with Rome, with a daily route.
“Greece is taking the next step toward restoring travel flows, always with the aim of protecting the health of workers in the tourism industry, residents of tourist destinations and its visitors,” said government spokesman Stelios Petsas, who said the terms of entry were based on the EU’s protocols now in effect.