ATHENS — Sparked by Americans, tourists interests in traveling as the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly reclining has made Greece a hot spot, especially for the summer, after the New Democracy government moved to be one of the first to invite them.
With vaccinations in the United States working, and Greece picking up what had been a slow-rolling inoculation campaign, visitors who are free of the Coronavirus will be allowed in although the health crisis isn't over.
But all indicators point to Greece, said Kathimerini.
The financial news agency Bloomberg said demand for Greece has skyrocketed unexpectedly, leading major airlines who had already added more direct flights to Athens to adjust schedules to meet the soaring demand.
The site said that the travel app Hopper recorded a 75 percent increase in round-trip searches to Greece, and luxury agency Virtuoso reported a 225 percent jump in hotel reservations across the country.
That's good news for the tourism industry which brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country's annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 163.96 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and for hopes of spurring a recovery.
There was eager anticipation too, with booking beginning in March before the government announced its tourism plans and as the pandemic wasn't lessening, showing a crazy desire to travel and shake off the fear and fatigue.
Bloomberg cited Paul Tumpowsky of the tech-driven agency Skylark saying: “Greece is everyone’s Plan A. There’s no doubt that by being open first, they’re going to capture the business on the front end of summer, because flights are unreliable everywhere else. Every major carrier is flying into Athens now – and you can bet that more airlines are going to be rerouting their wide-body jets there as soon as they can,” he said.
Such is the demand for Greece from the US this summer that in August there will be at least seven flights per day between the two countries, operated by Emirates, Delta, United and American Airlines, the newspaper said.
Tickets to Greece have also dropped in price: Bloomberg cited Hopper reporting an average of 25 percent savings on round-trip fares from the US, compared with 2019 prices during another record tourism year.
Early bookings could be had for around $800, the company told Bloomberg, rather than the typical $1,080 that was common before the pandemic, another incentive for an affordable vacation to Greece where prices are affordable for most.
The US and United Kingdom had warned that Greece isn't safe but didn't bar travel there and people are disregarding the advice in large part, apparently confident in being vaccinated and with the only real restrictions for now being wearing masks, often ignored by many.
The government said it would vaccinate every resident on ever island by the end of June to make them oases free of the Coronavirus, although cautioning that an unexpected uptick in COVID-19 could change everything.
Americans are a key market, especially Greek-Americans who want to return to their family's homeland after being shut out in 2020. Americans also spend freely while here, an average of 1,008 euros ($1231) each, some 78.8 percent over the mean rate of 564 euros ($689) by those from other countries.