ATHENS – It’s too soon to know it a ban on Russian airlines flying into the European Union over the invasion of Ukraine has Greece anxious will last beyond three months as now set, but that will limit – or cut off – Russian tourists.
They are a good market in Greece, although far fewer over the past two years after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in March 2020, three years ago, and nearly shut down international air travel for long periods.
After a delay, Greece agreed to the EU travel prohibition on flights from Russia, in the wake of 10 ethnic Greeks in Ukraine killed in the invasion, but there’s uncertainty how that will affect tourism, the official season set to begin in March.
“It is too early to make any safe statements today over the consequences on tourism. It will all be assessed in the coming weeks,” Yiannis Retsos, President of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) in a social media post.
Compounding the worry are soaring costs internationally that could become worse if oil prices keep spiking and pass on the costs to travelers, with some pandemic restrictions still in place.
That could also see Americans – who were barred in 2020 over COVID-19 but returning in 2021 – also more reluctant to come back this year, especially in the summer high period, said Kathimerini.
Alexander Zinell, CEO of the airport operator Fraport, told the newspper that even before the invasion that there were obstacles hindering a faster return to tourism, despite New Democracy government predictions of a big year.
Greece, he said, is also facing renewed competition for travelers, not just from traditional rivals such as Turkey, Spain and Italy, but in Asia, Australia and North America as well, especially if tourists stay closer to home.
Tez Tour Greece CEO Dimitris Haritidis told the papser that there were estimates that there would be as many as 100,000 Ukrainian tourists coming to Crete in the summer, a favored spot for them.
Tez Tour had also expected to bring some 125,000 Russian tourists to Crete in 2022, but that now appears very unlikely, it was said, especially if the invasion and its aftermath linger through the summer or year.
Russian tourism arrivals in Greece had peaked at 1.3 million in 2013 and started easing in 2014 when the first sanctions began from the West over President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
In 2019 arrivals from Russia reached 583,000 and the Greek National Tourism Organization said it had hoped almost as many would come in 2022, but with more EU sanctions on Russia, that too, now seems uncertain until June.