Neither tourism nor tourist arrivals are to blame for the rise in novel coronavirus cases in Greece, Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Greek hoteliers conference, he said that, based on statistics from checks carried out at the country’s borders, the opening for tourism was careful and well planned and did not cause damage.
He noted that just 74 positive cases were detected in 100,000 random samples taken at the borders, with the rate of positivity at just 0.07 percent. The rate of positivity at the land borders was 0.01 percent while that in airports was 0.09 percent, he reported.
Greece reported 3,109 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a level last seen in early April, bringing the total number of infections since the first case was detected in February last year to 444,783. COVID-19 related deaths have now reached 12,806.
Just 11 of Tuesday’s total cases were identified during routine Covid-19 testing of tourists at the country’s borders.
Greece, which relies on tourism for at least a fifth of its economy, kicked off the season in May, hoping that revenue would double over compared to 2020 and reach about half of the record it saw in 2019 when more than 30 million people visited the country.
The tourism sector accounts for about one fifth of its economy directly – and undoubtedly much more indirectly.
Tourism in Greece plunged in 2020
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 76.5 percent, to just 7.4 million, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation Institute.
Most industry insiders, however, say that revenue will not reach even half of the 2019 levels this year. The opening of the British market to outgoing tourism as of July 19 will give the local industry the push it needs to recover, but this may not be enough.
Britain is second only to Germany among Greece’s tourism markets, with 1 million tourists last year spending about €750 million. In 2019, about 4 million Britons spent some €2.5 billion.
About 41% of Greeks are fully vaccinated so far. Tourists need to show they have been vaccinated or present a negative PCR test to enter the country.
Greece, very keen to speed up the vaccination rollout across the country, announced late in June that young people aged 18-25 will receive a prepaid card with 150 euros when they get their first shot of a vaccine.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistsotakis announced the initiative, dubbed the “Freedom Pass,” saying that it represents an award for this age group that has more recently been affected by the coronavirus.