Why your summer vacation to Greece looks promising
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials say the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel guides because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures.TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until later this year — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.
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. If the Greek government hasn’t yet opened its borders for tourism, you won’t be allowed in. Second, the supply has to be there. If there are no airlines flying to your destination, it’ll be impossible to get there, and if the hotels haven’t reopened, there will be nowhere to stay. Lastly, your willingness to travel. Airlines will have to convince passengers that air travel is safe, which could prove to be challenging. Other factors will ultimately add to the equation as well, but these are the main holdups.
Low-cost carrier Wizz Air announced its intentions to launch a number of routes for the summer — including to Greece. Beginning June 16, Wizz Air plans to launch vacation flights from London Luton to Portugal. Then, in July, the carrier plans to launch flights from Luton to Greece — Corfu, Heraklion, Rhodes and Zakynthos.
As of May 1, Wizz Air had already resumed some service from London Luton to select airports in Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Israel for passengers who needed to make essential journeys. The resumption of some routes will help the carrier avoid one of the major holdups in launching summer flights: getting aircraft out of storage and crew up to speed.
“Although travel is currently restricted by government regulations, we are planning for the easing of restrictions as the situation improves and our customers are able to start traveling again,” Wizz Air U.K. Managing Director Owain Jones said.
Fellow low-cost carrier Ryanair said that it expects ‘minimal’ flights to operate in May and June. EasyJet has said that it expects flights booked in July, August and September to go ahead, which is a good sign for summer plans. Expect more carriers to announce summer travel routes, but it appears as if many are counting out resuming service before June or July.
Of course, these summer routes depend on respective governments lifting travel restrictions in relation to the coronavirus. Currently, the U.K.’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all nonessential.
Additionally, Wizz Air is relying on the Portuguese and Greek governments to lift their travel restrictions in time for the carrier to transport Brits to and from their holidays.
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 mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving from another country.
While internally, the country is starting to come out of lockdown with some businesses reopening, it’s still closed for tourism. According to Forbes, hotels in Greece plan to reopen on June 1.
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.
“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.
Last month, 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.”
If flights resume, hotels have reopened and the Greek government has lifted 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 implement new measures in order to convince travelers that flying is safe, and hotels have to go to great lengths to prove to travelers that they are clean.
If Greece flights with Wizz do commence in July, on board, the airline has implemented new measures in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and make travelers feel more comfortable with air travel. All passengers and crew will be required to wear face masks for the duration of their flight. In addition, all crew will be required to wear gloves.
Additionally, the airline said that it will give all passengers sanitizing wipes in order to wipe their seats down before travel. It’s also getting rid of seat back literature to prevent the spread of the virus by touch.
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. While Wizz said that it plans to encourage physical distancing in the airport, it will fill middle seats if there’s enough demand.
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 still remains the issue of physical distancing. On a crowded beach, it’s hard to imagine there being enough space to feel completely comfortable.
A summer Greek vacation is likely high on the minds of many of us after spending months at home and locked down. But ultimately, that Greek holiday lies in the hands of a number of factors. First and foremost, government restrictions have to be lifted in order for passport holders to be allowed through the country’s borders. There also has the be the supply there — and Wizz Air has already revealed that it plans to offer that option. Finally, the consumer’s willingness to travel has to be there.
For now, it looks like late summer travel to Greece may happen — July and beyond. As with all things about the coronavirus, it’s possible — and likely — that things could change over the coming days and weeks. Greece may paint a clearer picture as to when things may reopen, more airlines may reveal routes from the U.K. to the country and airlines and hotels may reveal additional safety measures for passengers to feel comfortable enough going there.
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.
Featured photo by 1001nights/Getty Images.
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