Greece will open its tourism services on May 14, when a ban on travel between regions ends.
The country removed quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers and those testing negative for Covid-19. Officials are calling the plan “baby steps” on the road back to normality.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says that restaurants and cafes’ outdoor areas will open starting on May 3.
Restrictions, which have been in effect since early November, will remain in place over Orthodox Easter on May 2.
“Our goal is to have a safe Easter and a free summer. But one cannot undermine the other,” Mitsotakis said. “That’s why we should not travel at Easter. Athens and other cities still have many COVID-19 cases. Mass movement carries the risk of spreading the virus everywhere.”
Despite the lockdown measures, Greece has struggled to contain a flare-up in cases that started in late January. And its mortality rate remains above the European Union average. The cumulative death toll reached 9,713 on Wednesday.
Reviving the tourism industry
Tourism is a key industry for the Greek economy. Travel receipts last year sank by more than 75% from 2019. It dropped from 18.2 billion euros to 4.3 billion euros ($21.9 billion to $5.2 billion). The slump, together with the impact of domestic lockdown measures, helped push Greece into recession, with gross domestic product plummeting by 8.2 percent last year.
On Monday, Greece lifted quarantine restrictions for travelers from EU member states, the U.S., Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Israel, and non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland that are part of a European travel pact. Travelers from those countries are no longer subject to a seven-day quarantine requirement.
Easter is considered to be the most important religious holiday in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country and is often celebrated with relatives in rural ancestral homes.
In addition to Athens and the east coast city of Thessaloniki, direct international flights are back in some of Greece’s most popular vacation destinations in Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu.
Greece hopes to reach the tourist numbers of 2019, at least from incoming Russian tourists.
In particular, the target for this year is 500,000 Russian tourists, while in 2019 were about 600,000 Russians.
Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said in Moscow that Greece will accept Russian tourists who have been vaccinated with the Sputnik vaccine.
Those who have either been vaccinated or have a certificate of immunity or a negative COVID-19 test will also be able to enter without quarantine.