Greece has formally opened its tourism sector, kicking off a summer season through which it hopes to resurrect its tourism which has been battered by the coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic.
Following months of lockdowns, Greece has also opened its museums including the Acropolis museum, which is home to Greek antiquity.
“I feel really alive and good because it has been such a hard and long year because of COVID,” said Victoria Sanchez, a 22-year-old student on holiday from the Czech Republic. “I feel again alive,” she said while strolling near the Roman Agora in downtown Athens.
As of Saturday, foreign tourists who have either been vaccinated or who can show negative COVID-19 test results will be allowed in the country.
“Greece is offering what people need,” tweeted Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis. “Calm and care-free moments on the road towards normality.”
“I’m finally here,” said Rebecca, elated a tourist in Athens from Florida, who declined to give her last name. “I’ve been waiting two years – two years with the COVID.”
The country has been rolling out vaccines to its islands in the hope of vaccinating most of them by the end of June. According to the government, with increased vaccination and rapid testing, a warmer weather will allow outdoor activities, thus enabling visitors to travel around the country safely.
With the Wuhan Coronavirus bringing international travel to a standstill in 2020, Greece suffered its worst year for tourism on record, with only 7 million visitors compared with 33 million in the previous year. Revenues from tourism have slumped to 4 billion euros ($4.9 billion) down from 18 billion euros.
In 2021, Greece is targeting 40% of 2019 levels.
On the island of Mykonos, a flight was given a water salute on landing.
Four islands, including Mykonos, received 32 international flights on Saturday from countries including Germany, Sweden, and Qatar.
Corfu, in the Ionian sea, also welcomed tourists from France and Germany.
“We are so happy. I’m happy to be here,” said Pierre-Olivier Garcia, on arriving on the island.
“The first weekend of freedom,” proclaimed Alpha TV during a broadcast from the busy port of Piraeus as Greeks celebrated the lifting of lockdown measures.
With a population of 11 million, Greece recorded 373,881 infections and 11,322 deaths.
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