Tourists Prop Up Greece’s Economy During COVID-19 Pandemic

ATHENS – Tourists allowed into Greece even if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 are spending so much it’s bringing a bonanza to help the economy but also spreading the Coronavirus again.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who long ago backed away from a pledge to consider making shots mandatory, has turned his attention full-square toward bringing in money to help off set the cost of subsidies for households hit hard by rising electric bills and other costs.

The tourists are paying for it and despite cases surging again, there’s been only talk of requiring masks in some public indoor areas such as restaurants, bars and taverns where anti-vaxxers are allowed to mix with crowds.

The Finance Ministry – which said there isn’t enough money to lower a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) and a projected growth in 2022 of at least 2.8 percent – said tourists are spending like crazy.

That’s expected to hit as high as 20 billion euros ($20.38 billion,) busting past the 2019 record of 18.2 billion euros ($18.55 billion) with the sector bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 196.54 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)

The figures are based on data on bookings, flights and overnight stays, said Kathimerini, and would bring in 2.5 billion euros ($2.55 billion) more than budgeted and be a saving grace for the economy.

“The data regarding traveler arrivals show that this season we are either at the same level or increased compared to 2019, which was a year with the Chinese market open and travelers from Russia and Ukraine, without inflation and the energy crisis,” Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias told the paper.

“However, the most impressive figures are those relating to the spring months, as they confirm the strategy we have set out to extend the tourist season, while we hope that the increases in arrivals in autumn and early winter will be correspondingly large, as already major tour operators are asking us for packages for November and December,” he said.

Yiannis Retsos, President of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, said earlier that this year tourism “can touch and, why not, exceed 2019 in terms of revenue,” despite a shortage of workers in the industry.

The former president of the association and CEO of the Sani/Ikos group, Andreas Andreadis, also said he expected the industry would bring in 20 billion euros and set a record.


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