ATHENS - Ready to open again to tourists from many countries - with conditions - on May 14, the COVID-19 pandemic was so devastating to the sector in 2020 it sustained 23 billion euros ($27.37 billion) and 65,000 jobs.
That assessment came from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) which showed the year was so bad that its contribution to the economy fell 61.1 percent after a run of record years.
With international air travel ground to a halt and people who could travel afraid to do so as the pandemic spread, the impact on tourism was deep although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis before the 2020 summer went to Santorini for a news conference imploring people to come.
The number of those employed in the Greek tourism sector fell from 825,000 in 2019, to 759,000 in 2020 – a drop of 7.9 percent, losses that the New Democracy government hopes will be recovered this year.
Greece will allow tourists from countries with relatively safer records in dealing with COVID-19 to enter if they have proof of vaccination or can show negative Coronavirus tests, to avoid testing and possible quarantine.
The report said the damage would have been deeper if not for government subsidies to the sector and workers who temporarily lost jobs after expecting another bumper year before COVID-19 hit.
These job losses were felt across the entire tourism ecosystem in the country, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) particularly affected, especially on the young and women, said Kathimerini of the findings.
WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said that the loss “has had a terrible socioeconomic impact, leaving huge numbers of people worried about their future. However, the situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s job support scheme which could save thousands of jobs under threat and has helped to halt the total collapse of the tourism sector.
“We must also praise the Greek government for its tremendous efforts and strategic steps taken to restart international travel. It has been an example throughout the pandemic, striking the balance between the health emergency and the economy, by allowing international travel through very clear testing and hygiene protocols,” she said.
“We believe that if the vaccine rollout picks up pace and restrictions for travel are relaxed on May 14 as planned, and with a comprehensive testing regime on departure in place, we predict that most of the jobs lost could return this year,” she stated.
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis, who is also Chairman of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Global Crisis Management Committee, said Greece’s plan includes continued backing to the sector, said Schengenvisainfo News.
“The adoption of digital vaccination certificates will ensure the fastest possible restoration of free movement between states. Europe has adopted the proposal of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and is proceeding with the introduction of these certificates, which will contribute to the facilitation of travel and the consequent strengthening of tourism,” he said.
“It is equally important to increase access to financial instruments, such as subsidized loans, for those tourism businesses that are proposing job creation,” he also said.