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Greek Tourism Industry Receives 800 Million Euros From EU

Santorini Atlantis Greek Tourism
The idyllic Greek island of Santorini. Credit: Dimitra Damianidi/Greek Reporter

The Greek tourism industry is receiving an 800 million euro deal approved by the European Commission to support its emergence from the coronavirus pandemic.

Since May 15th, Greece has been cautiously welcoming back tourists in accordance with European and international guidelines. Greece hopes to double its revenue from tourism this year over last year, when the pandemic gutted this vital sector of the economy.

The Greek tourism sector accounts for about one fifth of its economy directly – and undoubtedly much more indirectly.

The vital role played by Greek tourism

The Greek economy overall dipped a staggering 8% last year. Tourism revenue, still very much a vital part of the economy despite the country’s desire to diversify, plunged to 4.28 billion euros ($5.0 billion) in 2020 from 18 billion euros ($21 billion) in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of tourist arrivals also fell fell 76.5 percent, to just 7.4 million, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation Institute.

According to the British bank HSBC the anticipated increase in tourism this year is poised to add 2% to Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new report released earlier in May.

Despite an overall disappointing year in 2020, Greece managed to eke out nearly a quarter of its usual tourism business from June to November, according to data compiled by the Bank of Greece.

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who approved the impending project, touched on this on Tuesday, saying “this Greek 800-million-euro scheme will facilitate the access to liquidity for companies activating in the tourism sector.

“These enterprises have been heavily affected by the pandemic and this support will contribute to the continuation of the economic activity in these difficult times,” she stated.

“We will continue to closely cooperate with the state members aiming at finding feasible solutions in order to limit the economic consequences of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to EU rules.”

Vaccine passports arrive in Europe — starting with Greece

Greece has been extremely innovative in welcoming vaccinated European tourists into the country via the “Green passport” program.

The new green passports, which will be available in both physical and digital forms, will be free for all European Union residents.

The certificate will be used to show whether the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from it.

The vaccination passport will operate using unique QR codes in order to guarantee their authenticity.

When the online platform opens to Greeks on gov.gr, all citizens will be able to log on using either their personal Taxisnet passwords or their AMKA (Social Security) number. They can then be issued a digital Green Certificate,”which is being hailed as the saving grace of the European travel industry.

However, such vaccine passports will not be mandatory for travel — unlike other coronavirus regulations, such as testing.

Currently, to enter Greece you must have a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before arrival.

A negative test is not required, however, from travelers who have passed the fourteen-day mark since their second vaccination shot. In their cases, a vaccine certificate must be shown.

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