ATHENS – Still hoping to salvage a summer season with the gradual lifting of the COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis set a target date of July 1 for tourism to start.
That depends on whether there's any resurgence of the virus and how other countries deal with the easing of the pandemic, Mitsotakis having said while Greece will have strict health protocols that visitors should be checked before departures.
Speaking to some 500 executives and analysts of the Boston Consulting Group, via teleconference, Mitsotakis said the challenge for the tourism sector in Greece during the current, pandemic-battered year, is to acquire a bigger share of a much smaller "market pie” this year, said Kathimerini.
He also promised that a privatization program will go on and said there's more than ever a need for more investment in a "green economy" although critics said his New Democracy government wants to allow more development.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said letting organized beaches to reopen May 16 when a heatwave predicted to bring temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be an “important test” as to whether social distancing requirements will be followed.
“Everyone is watching Greece because, so far, it has shown an exemplary response to the pandemic. Now we are called upon to demonstrate that, with rules and maturity, we can enjoy the beauty of our country safely during this summer,” he said.
This will be the best way to restarting domestic, but also foreign tourism, he added as beach clubs that violate the requirements to keep umbrellas and chaise lounges at least four meters (13.12 feet) apart will face heavy fines and could be closed.
A government plan on transportation, including for airlines, is due to be released on May 15 and will detail health protocols required for air, shipping and road transport, so that both travellers and businesses know the new rules, he said.
Tourism is the country's biggest revenue engine and brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 185.29 billion euros ($200.3 billion,) needed more than ever this year.