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Economy

Running from Pandemic, Tourists Make Greece World’s Hot Spot

ATHENS — With international air traffic picking up as more countries have accelerated COVID-19 vaccinations and people crazy to travel after being locked in, locked down and locked out of vacations for 15 months, Greece has become a prime destination.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' push to open the doors on May 15 is paying off with rising bookings although they've been relatively slow in the spring but expected to take off big time in the summer.

Greece's vaccine program that was far behind schedule because it relied on getting doses from the notoriously slow European Union and a delayed distribution, is being ratcheted up and a lenient lockdown has mostly been lifted.

Restaurants are operating with outdoor dining and could open for inside seating in June if the Coronavirus cases fall fast enough and there are signs that the vaccines are working to do that despite many doubters, including health care workers.

“While many Americans are already booking flights to the usual suspects — London, Paris, Madrid and Rome – in anticipation of the E.U. bloc’s reopening, it’s clear that Greece’s head start has paid off,”

Users of the travel site Hopper booked more summer flights to Greece than anywhere else in Europe. Booking volume for Athens is “up significantly” compared to this time in 2019, Adit Damodaran, the site’s economist told the magazine.

More US airlines, sensing the trend, added direct flights to Athens and with air fares still low to attract fliers it has made Greece even more of a bargain than it usually is, along with the lure of sun, sand, beaches, islands, history and archaeological sites.

Flights from the US to Athens cost 18 percent less this summer than they did in 2019, he said, and they're coming from Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Many of them non-stop.

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