Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Tokyo Olympics The Article Core Values iPad Weather Story ideas Archive Puzzles Obits Newsletters
ADVERTISEMENT

Greece joins rush to win back tourists

by DEREK GATOPOULOS AND THANASSIS STAVRAKIS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 15, 2021 at 1:43 a.m.
Workers install a bamboo screen at a bar restaurant in Chora, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

NAXOS, Greece -- Greece launched its tourism season Friday amid a competitive scramble across the Mediterranean to lure vacationers emerging from lockdowns.

"We're all vaccinated, the tables are outside and spread out, with hand sanitizers on each one. We're ready. Now we wait," Kyriaki Kapri said, standing beside large display cabinets with fresh fish on beds of crushed ice in the kitchen of her Naxos beachside restaurant Gorgona -- Greek for Mermaid. During a six-month lockdown, Gorgona closed for the first time in its 50-year history, a pattern seen across Greece, including the nearby islands of Mykonos and Santorini.

The European Union has yet to roll out its cellphone-friendly travel pass system. But southern member-states, driven deeper into debt by the pandemic and highly dependent on tourism revenues, are not waiting.

Croatia has already reopened, as has Cyprus, joined Friday by Greece where residents were allowed to leave home without an electronic permit for the first time in six months.

Last year, the number of visitors to Greece plummeted by 78.2% to 7.4 million -- from a record 34 million in 2019 -- according to official data, with a corresponding drop in tourism revenues.

Greece is hoping to claw back half the 2019 visitor level. It's vowed to finish vaccinating its entire island population over the next six weeks and will even waive test requirements for tourists who have received vaccines made in Russia and China that are not approved for use domestically.

Malta is promising visitors vouchers to go diving and cash rebates to high-end hotel customers.

In Turkey, visitors from abroad have been exempt from stay-at-home orders applying to Turks, thus enjoying an empty Istanbul and little-populated beach resorts.

Portugal is the only southern European country to so far make Britain's so-called Green List of quarantine-free destinations. Travelers in the UK pounced on the news, according to Emma Coulthurst from holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket.

"Week-on-week, if you compare all package holiday price comparison searches via TravelSupermarket, the site has seen an 865% increase in searches for package holidays to Portugal," Coulthurst said.

In neighboring Spain, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said her government was in "constant" consultations with Britain to try to have its travel status upgraded.

Italy is dropping a five-day quarantine requirement for travelers from the EU, Britain and Israel starting Sunday, but many in the hospitality industry are still bracing for another tough year.

A tractor cleans Agios Georgios beach, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A tractor cleans Agios Georgios beach, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers clean a hotel in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers clean a hotel in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A worker cleans the balcony of a hotel room in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A worker cleans the balcony of a hotel room in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers arrange sunbeds as others install umbrellas at Plaka beach on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers arrange sunbeds as others install umbrellas at Plaka beach on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers clean a hotel room in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers clean a hotel room in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers paint the terrace of an all-day cafe bar restaurant in Chora, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Workers paint the terrace of an all-day cafe bar restaurant in Chora, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A tourist enjoys the sun as tavern chairs are stored at Plaka beach on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A tourist enjoys the sun as tavern chairs are stored at Plaka beach on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. With debts piling up, southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass. Greece Friday became the latest country to open up its vacation season as it dismantles lockdown restrictions and focuses its vaccination program on the islands. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A man cleans the garden of a hotel in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A man cleans the garden of a hotel in Agios Prokopios village, on the Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A ferry approaches the port as Portara, a marble gate which is part of an unfinished temple of Apollo of 530 B.C, stands atop of a hill on Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A ferry approaches the port as Portara, a marble gate which is part of an unfinished temple of Apollo of 530 B.C, stands atop of a hill on Aegean island of Naxos, Greece, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT