Press Conference: Rapid response of Greek tourism lays foundations for recovery

Press Conference: Rapid response of Greek tourism lays foundations for recovery

The swift actions of the Greek government to deal with the Covid-19 crisis has helped the country’s tourism industry to remain resilient and prepare to bounce back in 2021.

Greece’s Tourism Minister, Harry Theoharis, told WTM Virtual that the country took “decisive action very quickly” so it emerged from lockdown sooner than other European countries.

“The Greek economy is faring better than average in Europe, as we went into lockdown quicker and stricter early on,” he said.

Greece re-opened to foreign tourists from 1 July and has seen more than 4.5 million overseas visitors this year.

Tourism businesses were helped through the period of “hibernation” with initiatives such as furlough and financial support, while the government worked with the private sector to develop protocols to re-open safely.

“We need to have a functioning industry, ready to pick up again when we can,” he told WTM Virtual’s PR & Conference Marketing Executive, Sam Martin.

Tourism accounts for about 10% of Greece’s GDP and 400,000 jobs, making it an “immensely important sector”, said the minister.

More than 200,000 people in Greece were given training about the new health and safety protocols and testing was able to keep track of infections to give visitors and locals confidence.

The Greek tourism sector is also setting ambitious sustainability targets, with action on recycling, plastics and renewable energy.

The island of Astypalea has been chosen by Volkswagen for a project to develop the infrastructure to replace all petrol vehicles with electric ones – with the electricity being generated from renewable sources.

The minister also talked about the need to strike a sustainable balance between the needs of tourism and the wider community, to avoid the problems of overtourism.

He was excited by the news of a possible vaccine and said he will continue to push for common travel protocols to give travellers more confidence to return.

“We need to offer a vision for 2021 and beyond – a positive message that we have proven resilient and managed to reopen and restart,” he said.

“Greek tourism has succeeded; nothing was easy but nothing was impossible.”

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