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Economy

No Bang, Greece’s Waning Summer Tourism Season Ending With Whimper

August 24, 2020

The Ending Summer of tourism for Greece is approaching fast with September on the horizon and opening the country to visitors in July has turned out to be a dud, with far fewer numbers than expected and disappointing revenues, people scared off by COVID-19 and restrictive health measures.

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.

While eager for tourists to get the economy going again to offset losses from a COVID-19 lockdown, Greece 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.

Tourism is Greece's biggest revenue engine and brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 169.56 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and in 2019 some 33 million visitors spent 18.5 billion euros ($21.85 billion.)

But the second wave of the Coronavirus has dampened moods and hopes tourists would come, Greece relying on a 32-billion euro ($37.8 billion) aid package of loans and grants from the European Union to offset losses.

Adding to the woes is other countries, such as Norway, saying Greece is not a safe destination although the United Kingdom pulled back on doing the same, which means British tourists in Greece won't have to quarantine on return.

But just the idea it could happen saw massive cancellations in reservation to get to Greece, media reports said, people reluctant to travel wearing masks and facing tight protocols and the risk of quarantining in two countries.

Germans also didn't come in the usual numbers after their government advised them to stay home this year, the paper said and Greece's early success in holding down the pandemic wasn't enough of a lure when cases shot up again.

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