Aerial footage of the island of Kea also known as Gia or Tzia, Zea and, in antiquity, Keos, is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Kea is part of the Kea-Kythnos regional unit.
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LONDON – Andreas Patiniotis can’t help but sound cheerful as Greece welcomes tourists to the country again.
“I am very happy,” said the owner of four hotels in one of Greece’s most iconic vacation destinations, Santorini.
And that sentiment is spreading throughout this sunny nation, with the economy heavily reliant on international visitors.
In 2020, Greece’s gross domestic product fell by more than 8%, much of which was due to a lack of tourists.
This year, the government expects the entire summer season to double 2020 levels, Alex Patelis, economic adviser to the Greek prime minister, told CNBC on Thursday.
He said this summer “is going to be a lot easier than before”. He said the industry would now have adapted to the safety rules of Covid-19; the vaccination campaign is underway at the national level and abroad; and travelers are eager to seek sun.
In fact, the main message of the government’s latest tourism campaign is: “All you want is Greece” – which seeks to attract mainly northern Europeans who are in desperate need of warmer weather. after more than a year of lockdowns and strict social distancing measures.
SANTORINI, GREECE – 2020/09/22: View of the village of Oia on the volcanic island of Santorini during sunset.
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One of the government’s key strategies to support tourism was to forgo the priority for certain age groups and medically vulnerable people in its vaccination program, focusing instead on residents of the many Greek islands. The idea is to ensure that tourist hotspots are protected before the arrival of large numbers of visitors.
Athanasia Kokkinogeni, 31, is fully vaccinated. She told CNBC that in her home island, Kythnos, major hotel chains had remodeled and modernized ahead of the summer season.
“In general, there is optimism,” she said, noting that some tourists have already started to arrive. The official date for the reopening of the tourism industry is Friday, but some establishments have been working in recent days to deal with upcoming bookings.
Data show that, on Wednesday, more than 25% of the Greek population received at least one dose of a vaccine. This broadly corresponds to the whole of the European Union, which has around 30% of the adult population vaccinated with at least one dose.
The 2021 summer season will also depend on whether the governments of certain countries, such as the UK and Germany, lift their quarantine policies when holidaymakers return from Greece. The two nations are among the most important for Greek tourism.
The British government recently decided not to include Greece on its “green list” of foreign destinations, which means travelers from England face a period of quarantine when returning from the Mediterranean nation.
“All tourism is very important,” Patelis told CNBC. “But we are optimistic that we will be included soon,” he said of the UK’s green list.
Panoramic view of Thera and Imerovigli from the volcanic island of Santorini in the Cyclades – Aegean Sea.
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The British government must revise its green list every three weeks.
Quarantine requirements are a barrier to tourism. However, the European Union is working on a Covid-19 certificate to promote intra-EU travel. The idea is that people who have tested negative for the coronavirus, have been vaccinated, or have recently recovered from the disease will not have to self-quarantine.
“We hope it will be the last summer like this,” Patiniotis in Santorini told CNBC.
A couple of tourists look at Balos beach and its lagoon in the northwest of the island of Crete on May 13, 2021.
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