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Greece welcomes tourists again ahead of summer as vaccination rates pick up

Aerial images of Kea island also known as Gia or Tzia, Zea, and, in antiquity, Keos, is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Kea is part of the Kea-Kythnos regional unit.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Andreas Patiniotis can’t help sounding cheerful as Greece once again welcomes tourists back to the country.

“I’m very happy,” said the owner of four hotels in one of Greece’s most iconic holiday destinations, Santorini.

And that feeling is spreading across this entire sunny nation, with the economy relying heavily on international visitors.

In 2020, Greece’s gross domestic product sank more than 8% and a large part of that was due to the lack of tourists.

This year, the government expects the whole summer season to be double 2020 levels, Alex Patelis, an economic advisor to the Greek prime minister, told CNBC on Thursday.

He said this summer “is going to be much easier than before.” He said the industry would have now adjusted to Covid-19 safety rules; the vaccination campaign is underway both domestically and abroad; and travelers are keen to seek out some sun.

In fact, the main message in the government’s latest tourism campaign is: “All you want is Greece” — looking to lure mainly northern Europeans that are desperate for some warmer weather after more than a year in lockdowns and strict social-distancing measures.

SANTORINI, GREECE – 2020/09/22: View of Oia village of Santorini volcano island during sunset.

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One of the key government strategies to support tourism was to waive priority for certain age groups and the medically vulnerable in its vaccination program, instead focusing on the residents of the many Greek islands. The idea 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 in her home island, Kythnos, big hotel chains have been remodeling and upgrading ahead of the summer season.

“In general, there’s optimism,” she said, noting that some tourists have already started to arrive. The official date for the tourism industry to reopen is Friday but some establishments have been working over the past days to deal with upcoming bookings.

Data shows that as of Wednesday more than 25% of the Greek population have received at least one dose of a vaccine. This is largely in line with the whole of the European Union, which has around 30% of the adult population vaccinated with at least one dose.

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Greece welcomes tourists again ahead of summer as vaccination rates pick up

2021-05-14 08:24:43

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