Published on : Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Greece’s gamble on reopening to tourists isn’t yielding positive results. With tourism comprising over a fifth of the economic output of the country and
employing almost a quarter of its entire workforce, the government of Greece felt it had little choice in terms of reopening to tourism and adopt calculated risks of opening up to new visitors. Even though few foreign travelers have started returning, new cases of infections have triggered, as financial benefits have so far remained subdued.
In compared to other nations, Greece has weathered the health crisis in a much better way, with just 194 deaths so far. However a small increase in cases following border reopening in July is an indication of how tough it will be for European countries to get back its economic normality. Last week, the government imposed new protocols in the middle of warnings from epidemiologists about resurfacing of infection turning into a full-blown second wave.
Around 530 new cases of infections have been traced in the first two weeks of July, with over half coming from incoming visitors. That’s greater than the total number of cases reported in June and almost doubles May’s confirmed infections. “We all knew, both we and our scientists and experts, that with the opening of our borders we would have a partial increase in cases” said Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias last week. But he added, “the economy and tourism must survive.”
From June 15 th , the Greek government started reopening to tourism, something for which the industry, frightened at the prospect of a tumbleweed summer, had pushed hard.
“Unfortunately we have to do it, because it looks like the danger from coronavirus will be smaller than the danger from its effects on the economy,” said Savvas Pagonakis, who owns a hotel on the island of Rhodes. “We will have to choose coronavirus or hunger.”
Till now, the economic boost has been disappointing, whatsoever. Pagonakis explains that few hoteliers started with bookings at 30 percent, but that had now halved. “EasyJet resumed with six direct flights per week and this has dropped now to three,” he said.
As per the local hotel owners, hotels on the mainland are around a quarter full. In June, air passenger arrivals to Greece were down by 93 percent to just 588,186 from nearly 8.4 million last year.