Why your summer vacation to Greece looks promising
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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year. This post has been updated with new information.
Greece is one of the most popular summer hot spots. From the stunning sunsets in Santorini, partying into the night in Mykonos and the slow pace of life you’ll find in the Greek Islands, there’s plenty to love about a holiday in Greece.
But with travel completely upended by the coronavirus, what happens to your Greek summer vacation this year?
Like with most things about the coronavirus, information is changing every day. So planning for a summer Greek getaway is all but certain, as what we know now may be different from what we know by next week.
Ultimately, your summer Greek vacation depends on several things. First, government restrictions. The Greek government requires you to quarantine, seven days with a negative test and 14 with a positive test. Second, the supply has to be there. Although the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs will allow international flights into all airports in Greece starting July 1, you may still struggle to find flights and lodging that fit your needs. Lastly, your willingness to travel. Airlines and hotels will have to convince consumers that travel is safe. Other factors will ultimately add to the equation as well, but these are the main holdups.
Various international airlines will start flying to Athens and Thessaloniki airports in mid-June. After all, Greece recently announced that nonessential travelers will be allowed to enter Greece starting June 15. Travelers from EASA affected areas including the U.S. will be subject to Covid-19 testing upon arrival between June 15 and June 30, while travelers from other areas will only be subject to random testing. A positive test will result in a 14-day supervised quarantine period while a negative test will require seven days of self-quarantine.
From July 1 onward, international flights will be allowed into all airports in Greece. Visitors will be subject to random tests upon arrival. But, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date. So, at this point, it’s unclear when U.S. residents will be allowed to visit Greece without quarantine requirements.
As a country, Greece went under lockdown relatively early in the coronavirus crisis, and the number of cases and deaths has been low. Since March, Greece has been closed to non-EU citizens, and the country has issued a seven to 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from another country. However, this policy will change on June 15.
In an interview with CNN, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that while there are plans to welcome some tourists into the country by mid-June, he wants the tourism industry to be up and running by July 1. This fits with Greece’s recently announced three-tiered approach for welcoming tourists.
“Ideally we want more high-end tourists where we can actually respect social distancing,” Mitsotakis told CNN. He also noted that tourists entering the country would undergo coronavirus testing and there would be temperature checks at hotels and local businesses.
Tourism is a huge draw for the country. Last year, it reported 34 million visitors, bringing in about 18 billion euros in revenue — about 10%-12% of economic output. The tourism sector employs about one in five Greeks.
In April, Greek tourism minister Harry Theocharis echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiment to Reuters by saying that the country hopes to welcome tourists back by July, but for vacationers to expect a different experience from years past. “This season is not going to be like the other years, I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case,” Theocharis said. “However, there is a lot that we can do to reopen the tourist economy, the flows.”
Even as flights resume, hotels reopen and the Greek government lifts many of its tourism restrictions, there still is one big issue that both the airlines and hospitality operators have to face — attracting travelers to come. Airlines have to convince travelers that flying is safe, and hotels have to go to great lengths to prove to travelers that they are clean.
Many airlines have implemented new measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and make travelers feel more comfortable with air travel. For example, many airline ask or require that passengers and crew wear face masks for the duration of their flight. And, some airlines have removed seatback literature and are providing passengers sanitizing wipes to wipe their seats down before travel. But, the debate that has struck the airline industry for travel in the aftermath of coronavirus is whether to keep the middle seat empty to encourage physical distancing.
In April, EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the airline will offer an open middle seat option for passengers as demand allows. Meanwhile, at fellow low-cost carrier Ryanair, CEO Michael O’Leary said the idea to enforce an empty middle seat policy was “idiotic.” Director General of the International Air Transport Association Alexandre de Juniac said that there was no evidence that passengers would be safer if the middle seat was left empty.
Finally, the hospitality industry in Greece — and beyond — will have to prove to guests that they’re safe as well. Several of the big chain hotels — Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt — have announced new cleaning and sanitization measures inside their properties.
And, of course, when travelers get to their destination, there remains the issue of physical distancing.
For now, it looks like late summer travel to Greece may be feasible. But, as with all things about the coronavirus, it’s possible — and likely — that things could change over the coming days and weeks. In particular, we’ll be paying attention to what restrictions, if any, are placed on travelers arriving from the U.S. from July 1 onward. If no quarantine is required in the case of a negative test, Greece may become an attractive location for a late summer vacation.
If you are keen on getting the summer vacation to Greece planned and booked, be sure you pay attention to the cancellation policies on both your flights and hotels. Use flexible booking policies to your advantage during this uncertain time, as things may change from day to day and week to week.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
Featured photo by 1001nights/Getty Images.
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