To revive its economy that has been badly hit by the novel Coronavirus restrictions, Greece, one of the world’s most-loved travel destinations, is hoping to reopen to tourists from July.
The country has been on lockdown since March 23 to curb the spread of the coronavirus which has already infected over 2500 people and caused over 135 fatalities in the country. The lockdown means passenger traffic plunged by about 90 % for ferries according to the Passenger Shipping Business Association, while domestic and international flights dropped by 59% according to the Civil Aviation Authority. Hotels were unoccupied in most cases, and beaches saw no guests.
Tourism is one of Greece’s main income earners, earning the country 18 billion euros in 2019 alone from 34 million visitors. Experts say the coronavirus has plunged Greece’s tourism into its biggest crisis in many years. But the country is hoping to save what is left of this travel season.
The government has announced gradual ease of the current lockdown effective on May 4. Harry Theocharis, Greece’s tourism minister says the country plans to welcome back tourists in July – a month after many hotels will be allowed to open for business.
“The season is not going to be like the other years, I would be fool to believe that this could ever be the case. However, there is a lot that we can do to re-open the tourist economy, the flows,” Theocharis said during an interview.
Tourism accounts for up to 12% of Greece’s GDP, raking in $20 billion (18 billion euros) in 2019.
Greece went under lockdown on March 23 and is looking to lift restrictions from Monday, while hotels will be allowed to reopen on June 1, Reuters reports.
But the southeast European nation is unlikely to witness a busy summer season, as restrictions around movement due to coronavirus keep people away.
Greek tourism minister, Harry Theocharis, told Reuters: “This season is not going to be a season like the other years, I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case, however there is a lot that we can do in order to re-open the touristic economy, the touristic flows, and that way we will able to support a lot of those enterprises — the hotels, the travel agents.”
Greece has reported around 2,500 coronavirus cases and 139 deaths.