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Economy

Greek Tourism Sector, Canceled Thessaloniki Fair Want COVID-19 Help

ATHENS – Adding to the ruling New Democracy's woes in trying to manage the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greece's tourism industry and the managers of the canceled Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) want aid.

The President of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) is asking the government to extend measures such as subsidizing employers’ social security contributions for employees and allowing tourism businesses to suspend contracts, said Kathimerini.

The country opened to tourists in July but barred those from hard-hit critically important countries such as the United States and Russia and restrictive health measures put in place proved such a deterrent that arrivals were way down.

The tourism group said it hoped visitors would bring in as much as 5 billion euros ($5.9 billion,) a huge drop from 2019's more than 18.5 billion euros ($21.82 billion) in another record year brought to a halt by the pandemic.

Instead, only about 3.5 billion euros ($4.13 billion) is expected and the industry didn't hire 160,000 seasonal workers, adding to the unemployment rate that's expected to reach levels unseen since a near decade-long crisis began in 2010.

The country said it would allow cruise ships – said breeding grounds for the Coronavirus – on Aug. 1 but they didn't come although in the past they had been major tourist sources.

TIF officials want aid for the fair's cancellation, a major source of revenues for Greece's second-largest city as Thessaloniki’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Ioannis Masoutis proposed a full tax and social security contribution exemption for the company for 12 months “as compensation for its loss of revenue.”

His request includes an exemption from the obligation to pay Value Added Tax (VAT, income tax, property tax (ENFIA), as well as employer contributions for 12 months and a discount on power and water utility bills for a year.

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