On Friday, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said he was satisfied with the progress made in expanding the number of direct flights from the United States to Greece ahead of reopening the country for the tourist season.
The Minister expressed positivity about his meetings with business leaders at United and American Airlines to encourage the creation of additional routes from US cities to Greece.
“I am extremely satisfied with the response of the opening of Greek Tourism to the American market,” Theoharis tweeted, showing images of his meetings with airline officials.
Theoharis traveled to Atlanta, Georgia last week where he met with executives from Delta Airlines which is headquartered in the city. Delta announced that direct flights from New York to Athens would resume on May 28, followed by flights from Atlanta on July 2.
The Minister said that the US airlines’ representatives pointed to Greece’s high recovery rate among European countries as a reason to resume travel.
Rebuilding trust with tourists
During his US trip, Theoharis provided an interview to Global Atlanta where he said his only goal was to gain the trust of American travelers.
“This is not about Greece gaining market share. This is about everyone restarting that trust,” Theoharis said.
He touted the effectiveness of the Greek approach to protecting public health for residents and tourists alike. This approach Theoharis insist is more effective after applying the lessons learned from a surge in COVID 19 cases last fall.
“This vacation is not the same as 2019. There are still restrictions in terms of social distancing … and hygiene requirements,” he said. “Those have worked very well. Our private sector implemented them in exemplary fashion, like hotels, etc. So we’ll continue with that. We’re updating them with the new knowledge that we have — slight changes — but effectively (they are doing) what we expected from them.”
For Theoharis, the goal for Greece’s reopening to tourism is to ensure the best possible experience for the visitors themselves. To this end, he said this means freedom to move around in Greece and return home healthy.
“We do not aim for quantity in terms of revenue or number of people that come in now. Just quality. And quality for us means to have the ability to travel if you want to, and to be safe throughout the journey, door to door, and go back to your loved ones and relatives, safe and sound,” Theoharis said.
Greece as a model of a safe tourism destination
While keeping safety in mind, Theorharis wants to make it as easy as possible for tourists to visit Greece. He explained that American and other travelers who can show proof of their vaccination or at least that they tested negative for COVID 19 will be allowed into his country.
Theoharis maintains that Greece’s main goal with its reopening is to set a standard for how to reopen safely for international visitors.
“We are saying there is a system. We put it in the public domain, we want others to copy it. We believe it’s safe. We have the data to back it up. Of course every country makes its own sovereign decisions, but we believe that this is the way to move forward,” he told Global Atlanta.
For example, Athens was an early leader on proposing that the European Union create a certificate for vaccinated citizens. Keen to ease travel among EU countries, Greece had proposed the introduction of a COVID 19 vaccination certificate as far back as January.
Earlier this week, the EU took a step in this direction when the European Parliament accepted a proposal to develop a certificate scheme. Greece began issuing a digital vaccination certificate for its citizens in February.
Under this proposal, vaccine certificate holders would be exempt from quarantines, self-isolation or on arrival testing in member states. The certificate program is designed for citizens of the EU and does not apply to those entering the bloc from outside. How to handle foreign travelers entering the EU will be left to member states themselves to determine.
Greece maintains certain restrictions before reopening on May 14
The Greek government has maintained several precautions ahead of its planned reopening on May 14.
On Friday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced guidelines for international travel to Greece, including quarantine requirements, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Travel continues to be allowed for those that can prove they are travelling for essential reasons, as well as those that are permanent residents of the European Union or countries part of the Schengen treaty.
Additionally, permanent residents of the following twelve nations are also now allowed to enter Greece: the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Serbia, and Israel.
Those travelers who want to avoid a seven day quarantine requirement must be able to present to authorities one of two documents. They must carry either the results of a coronavirus PCR test taken within the past 72-hour period, or a public health certificate written in English guaranteeing that they have been fully inoculated. In this case, fully vaccinated means that fourteen days have passed since their final vaccination.
Travel continues to be allowed for those that can prove they are travelling for essential reasons, as well as those that are permanent residents of the EU or countries part of the Schengen treaty.
Another requirement of all those traveling either to or from Greece, including permanent residents of Greece, is a QR code generated by the completion of a Passenger Locator Form (PLF). The PLF, which can be filled out electronically, includes details about where travelers have been staying and the address at which they plan to spend their time in Greece.
The PLF must also be filled out the day before passengers leave or enter Greece, and must include flight information.
1/2 Είμαι εξαιρετικά ικανοποιημένος από την ανταπόκριση που έχει το άνοιγμα του Ελληνικού Τουρισμού στην αμερικανική αγορά. Μετά από τη @Delta προχωρήσαμε σε ουσιαστικές συζητήσεις με τις άλλες δύο μεγάλες αεροπορικές εταιρείες @AmericanAir και @united. https://t.co/6pUrlzLjcI
— Harry Theoharis (@htheoharis) April 30, 2021