Aerial views of the island of Kea, also known as Gia or Tzia, Zea, and in ancient times Keos, is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Kea is part of the Kea-Kythnos regional unit.
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LONDON – Andreas Patiniotis can’t help but sound happy as Greece welcomes tourists back to the country.
“I am very happy,” said the owner of four hotels in one of the most famous holiday destinations in Greece, Santorini.
And that feeling is spreading across the sunny nation, with the economy heavily dependent on international visitors.
In 2020, Greece’s gross domestic product fell by more than 8%, and a large part of that was due to the lack of tourists.
This year, the government expects to double 2020 levels for the entire summer season, Alex Patelis, economic advisor to the Greek Prime Minister, told CNBC on Thursday.
He said this summer “will be a lot easier than before.” He said the industry has now adjusted to the safety rules of Covid-19. The vaccination campaign is running at home and abroad. and travelers are keen to find some sun.
In fact, the main message in the government’s recent tourism campaign is “All You Want Is Greece” – to attract mostly Northern Europeans looking for warmer weather after more than a year of lockdowns and strict social distancing measures.
SANTORINI, GREECE – 09/22/2020: View of Oia village on the volcanic island of Santorini during sunset.
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One of the government’s main strategies in support of tourism has been to forego the priority of certain age groups and the medically vulnerable in its vaccination program, and instead focus on the residents of the many Greek islands. This is to ensure that tourist hotspots are protected before the large number of visitors arrive.
Athanasia Kokkinogeni, 31, is fully vaccinated. She told CNBC that on her home island of Kythnos, major hotel chains were being remodeled and modernized ahead of the summer season.
“Generally there is optimism,” she said, noting that some tourists have already arrived. The official date for the tourism industry to reopen is Friday, but some facilities have been working over the past few days to process upcoming bookings.
Data shows that by Wednesday, more than 25% of the Greek population had received at least one dose of a vaccine. This is broadly in line with the whole of the European Union, where around 30% of the adult population are vaccinated with at least one dose.
Quarantine the British?
The 2021 summer season will also depend on whether governments in some countries like the UK and Germany lift their quarantine policies when vacationers return from Greece. The two nations are among the most important for Greek tourism.
The UK government recently decided not to put Greece on the “green list” of foreign travel destinations, which means that travelers from England will be quarantined on their return from the Mediterranean.
“All tourism is very important,” Patelis told CNBC. “But we are optimistic that we will be accepted soon,” he said of the UK green list.
Panoramic view of Thera and Imerovigli from Santorini volcanic island in Cyclades – Aegean.
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The UK government will revise its green list every three weeks.
Quarantine requirements are a barrier to tourism. However, the European Union is working on a Covid-19 certificate to encourage travel within the EU. The idea is that people who have received a negative coronavirus test, have been vaccinated, or have recently recovered from the disease do not need to be quarantined.
“We hope this will be the last summer like this,” Patiniotis told CNBC in Santorini.
A few tourists take a look at Balos Beach and its lagoon in the northwest of the island of Crete on May 13, 2021.
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