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Greece welcomes tourists again ahead of summer as vaccination rates rise

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.

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