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Economy

Greek Hotel Chains Mull Summer Rich Tourists Social Distance Scheme

ATHENS – With Greece’s New Democracy government hoping tourists will return in July after the lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus is fully lifted, major hotel chains are looking at renting only half their rooms and setting up social distancing for their restaurants as a way to show people it’s safe to come this summer.

The groups are looking at opening some of their seasonal units in July although year-round hotels are set to begin operation again on June 1, the government eager to salvage what it can from tourism which brings in as much as 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 185.59 euros ($200.3 billion.)

There were worries that tourism could fall up to 70 percent as there’s no plan yet for the full resumption of international air traffic and uncertainty whether people will risk flying for trips abroad when it does.

Some small hotels were already looking at whether they could afford to reopen at all this summer because they would also likely be able to rent fewer rooms and incur higher costs for complying with health protocols. 

As well as cutting rentals by 50 percent the chains are considering pairing hotel rooms with specific seabeds on beaches and next to swimming pools so that they are only used by the guests in those rooms, said Kathimerini in a report on the summer plans.

There would also be fewer guests allowed in dining rooms and with tables further apart and staggered servings to keep people from congregating, with no buffets at most resorts and room service seen increasing.

To keep surfaces clean and meet health requirements, more staff would be needed – too costly for smaller hotels – with bed linen and towels left outside rooms that wouldn’t be made up by maids.

Rooms would be cleaned and disinfected frequently and one-way systems of pedestrian traffic set up to limit people coming in contact with each other while walking around in the facilities using services.

The associated costs will likely mean that people who can afford to come to the high-end hotels will be paying a lot more, which could mean holidays in Greece this summer will be mostly for the rich.

Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Tourism, Thomas Bareiss, said he believed his countrymen would be able to travel this summer and that Greece would very likely be a preferred destination.

“I hope that, given the good numbers, we will be able to relax the restrictions in the next four to eight weeks and that it will then be possible to gradually go on vacation again,” Bareiss said in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel.

“I think the long-distance trips will be canceled this summer, but … I would not yet write off other regions in Europe, such as the Balearic Islands or the Greek Islands,” he added, saying that Berlin is “already in talks with governments” in neighboring countries for allowing tourism to proceed to destinations that can be reached by car, such as Austria, France, Belgium, Poland or The Netherlands.

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