ATHENS – Just as Greece’s tourism sector was looking forward to a faster recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and luring winter visitors as part of a campaign to bring them year round, the Omicron Variant has lowered hopes.
Businesses from hotels to travel agents and airlines and those benefiting from the trickle down of tourist spending are looking at a cold winter indeed as Greece and the world brace for what’s expected to be an Omicron wave.
That variant is less deadly than the Delta version it is overtaking but far more contagious which could see big increases in the number of cases and hospitalizations, more restrictive measures and international travel slowed.
It has already become evident, said Kathimerini, a drop in bookings and cancellations of trips that has already hit hard because so many tourism businesses offer no-fee guarantees if people break off their plans.
That extends into 2022 and air tickets being canceled although it’s unsure how deep into the new year will go or if travel will be easier when the spring season leading into summer arrives, what Greece expected would be a boom.
Greek hotels, travel agents and airlines are bracing for a particularly painful quarter ahead, as the arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the growing restrictions it will bring have already obstructed the course to recovery that Greek tourism had set itself on.
Air industry analysts told the newspaper that there’s been a decline in the number of flights and arrivals already, with the New Democracy government requiring more testing of visitors and likely to impose more restrictions.
The number of tourists to Athens and Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki has fallen drastically in late December and many conferences and events scheduled for early 2022 have been canceled.
Even more troubling, the report said, is tour operators selling summer holiday packages reported that bookings have plummeted, a harbinger of what could be a disappointing year that was expected to be a recovery.
But Greeks are still traveling within the country, including to winter resort areas desperate for business but with more health measures said coming on Jan. 3 the businesses expect few customers after Jan. 10.