Tourism Recovery Threatened
While officials remain cautiously hopeful for the remainder of the tourism season, restrictive measures imposed by US, Israel, and EU could reverse gains in arrivals made in July.
At a time when the tourism industry – vitally important to the Greek economy – is recovering, a series of measures aimed at visitors to the country, even if they are vaccinated, is causing anxiety in Athens.
After the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that US travelers avoid Greece, Iran and Ireland because of the rise in Covid-19 cases, Israel has imposed a seven-day quarantine on residents returning from Greece.
Greece is not the only country targeted by the Israeli measure. The decision concerns 18 countries that had not been on its list of targeted destinations and they include, France, Germany, Italy and the US, among others. The decision takes effect on August 11. From that date on, whoever travels to Israel from this country must self-quarantine for a week, even if they are vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.
Restrictions concerning the southern Aegean islands, among Greece’s most popular tourist destinations, were also announced by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). According to the center’s data, the Greek islands were moved to the “red” category after the number of new cases shot over 500 per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks. The “deep red” category includes 13 popular destinations, including the islands of Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Samos and Santorini.
The US State Department, on the recommendation of the CDC, upgraded Greece to Level 4, the countries it recommends US citizens avoid traveling to. In effect, this is a travel directive. In early April, the State Department had included 34 countries in that category; since then, always following the CDC’s advice, it has added more than 100 others but also removed several. Since June, with the Delta variant of Covid-19 expanding, it has not removed any country from the list, which now includes almost 90 countries.
Before these latest developments, Greek tourism appeared well on its way to recovery: According to data supplied by the Tourism Ministry, there were 2.36 million arrivals, or 65.5% of the 2019 pre-pandemic level (3.6 million). In 2020, July arrivals had fallen to 1.4 million, or 38% of the 2019 level.
The total number of arrivals since the tourism season started in May is some 3.7 million.