Greece reopens islands to flights in bid to save tourism season

People walk in the empty alleys in the town of Oia in the island of Santorini June 14, 2020 as the country prepares for the return of tourists to Greece from around 30 countries by air, sea and land. — AFP pic
People walk in the empty alleys in the town of Oia in the island of Santorini June 14, 2020 as the country prepares for the return of tourists to Greece from around 30 countries by air, sea and land. — AFP pic

CORFU, July 1 — Greece on Wednesday reopened flights to its flagship island destinations as it raced to salvage a portion of the annual tourism season that is vital to its economy.

Over 100 flights are expected at 14 regional airports that include the popular islands of Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport manager Fraport said.

All airports in the country are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumenista will again receive ferries from Italy.

Travellers are given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days. 

Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results.

“It will be a very difficult tourism season. We will do the best we can,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet this week.

Greece, which has a relatively low coronavirus death toll under 200, has launched a promotional campaign to revive tourism — which accounts for a quarter of its gross domestic product — and hopes to reassure potential travellers as well as Greeks who fear a resurgence of the pandemic with the return of tourists.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday signed an agreement with German tour giant TUI, aiming to bring 50 percent of the nearly three million tourists the agent brought to Greece in 2019.

“We’re trying to save the season,” Amelia Vlachou, a jewellery shop owner on Corfu, told AFP.

“Of course it doesn’t compare with previous years when we had lots of people,” she said. — AFP

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