(CNN) – Greece’s tourist appeal is no secret, but with most of us still in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the idea of spending the summer can only be a distant dream.
Or maybe not, say Greek officials.
The Mediterranean nation appears to be a rare coronavirus success story.
By applying a strict and early blockade, the country has managed to keep deaths incredibly low – only around 150 so far.
This week, some companies such as hairdressers and bookstores were allowed to reopen for the first time.
And the country’s pragmatic prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, thinks that this summer may be a model for welcoming some travelers.
“This summer’s tourist experience may be slightly different from what you had in previous years,” Mitsotakis told Nic Robertson of CNN when they sat – socially spaced – in his office this week.
“Maybe no bars can be open, or no crowds crowded, but you can still have a fantastic experience in Greece, provided the global epidemic is in decline.”
New travel protocols
Openness to tourism inevitably implies opening up the country to people potentially carriers of the virus, but Mitsotakis hopes that current testing regimes can be improved to reduce risk.
At the moment, every international traveler is screened for Covid-19 upon arrival in Athens.
Before the CNN reporting team also arrived in Athens this week, we were asked to fill out a form on our flight from Zurich with all our personal information as well as our seat number – presumably to allow the authorities to trace contacts. tight if someone on board was positive.
Upon landing in Athens, we were immediately assembled in a room where everyone’s throat was buffered and cataloged.
We got the results back less than 12 hours later (negative, fortunately).
Mitsotakis hopes for something much more complete. He wants international standards, or at least European standards, which establish the same travel protocols for all countries.
“I suppose people will be tested before they get on a plane, not after they get here.
“They can only board the plane with a negative test or a positive antibody test,” he said.
If everything goes according to plan, he hopes that the country can start welcoming tourists by July 1st.
Targeting for high-end tourists
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotaki hopes to reopen the country before the end of the summer.
Russell Yan / Pixabay
Given the effort it takes to get here at a time when airlines – including low cost carriers carrying most of the country’s foreign air arrivals – have stopped flying most services, Mitsotakis is targeting “high-end tourists.” highest “.
“Yachting, for example, has fewer people who are on a boat and then go out to eat or buy supplies,” he says.
“Agrotourism, tourism in smaller hotels seems to me more suitable for this new type of post-pandemic world.”
The question of when and how to open is not a trivial point for a nation that has been troubled by recession and economic turmoil for more than a decade.
At least 20% of the country’s GDP depends on tourism, twice the global average.
With over 31 million tourists in 2019, three times its population, Greece has more than doubled its visitor numbers in 10 years and billions have been invested in services and infrastructure. At least one in four Greeks works in tourism or related sectors.
The first forecasts had forecast a booming year, leading Irene Petrakou and her two brothers to invest in the hotel they manage in the center of Athens.
Inaugurated by parents in the 70s, the family business was the main source of income.
“Early reservations looked good, we decided to renew,” says Petrakou. “The current situation creates big cash flow problems for us.”
Saving summer season?
At least 90% of Greece’s tourist revenue comes from international visitors.
City hotels are expected to reopen starting June 1, while seasonal hotels are expected to continue until a month later.
“The first part of summer has already been lost,” he adds. “Customers with reservations later in the season have a” wait and see “approach, which is good.”
Like many in the industry, Petrakou believes that Greece’s success in containing the virus early is the key to the country’s tourism brand that survived this intact crisis and could lead to a faster recovery.
The Greek prime minister told CNN that the collective sense of success in the country’s fight against Covid-19 will be a legacy that takes away from the crisis.
“I dare to use the word pride,” he adds. “The Greeks have not been proud for a long, long time”
That pride and what he hopes will be the relative security of Greece’s Covid-19 strategy so far, will be a draw this summer.
“It’s nice to get these feelings back. Because of positive feelings, and they will help us deal with the great economic crisis that is clearly around the corner.”
Coffee enthusiast. Travel scholar. Infuriatingly humble zombie fanatic. Thinker. Professional twitter evangelist.