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Economy

Tourists Arriving During Pandemic, Greece’s Blue Flag Beaches Open

ΑΤΗΕΝS — Welcoming tourists even during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece offered them another irresistible lure: some of the world's best beaches, on the mainland and island.

They are designated with internationally-recognized Blue Flags awarded to those which are the cleanest, with Greece having 545 of them, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The report noted that the awards also go to 16 marinas and six tourism boats with ranked Greece second among 49 contenders in the world, said the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN).

At some of the beaches there are also hand sanitizers next to showers and lifeguard towers and umbrellas and beach beds are positioned at safe social distances which can't be enforced, of course, for bathers or people walking about.

The Blue Flag, given by the Copenhagen-­based Foundation for ­Environmental Education, is awarded annually to sites meeting more than 30 stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria.

"Each Blue Flag that flies on our shores, marinas and tourist boats testifies to the integrated and high-quality services, and also contributes to the desire to return in every way to normality. This year, once again, Greece emerges as a clean, healthy and safe destination in the midst of this pandemic," Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told an online event organized by the HSPN.

"Greece is entering a new period of sustainable tourism, a new period of tourism development that will be guided by the global principles of sustainability," said Angela Gerekou, Greek National Tourism Organization President said.

Greece reopened to international tourism last week, expecting to double the number of visitors and revenues compared to last year, officials and experts have told Xinhua, their spending needed to bolster an economy brought down by lockdowns.

Tourism accounts for as much as 18-20 percent of the country's annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 164.26 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and was on run of consecutive years through 2019 before the pandemic hit in 2020.

That saw the numbers of tourists fall from 33 million the year before to only six million and revenues plummet from 18.2 billion euros ($22.19 billion) to only 4 billion euros ($4.88 billion) the Bank of Greece said.

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