Greece eyes bullish tourism season despite Ukraine war

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece’s pandemic-battered tourism trade is hoping the war in Ukraine gained’t derail restoration, with a whole bunch of 1000’s cancelling journeys because the nation lifts Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to revive the important thing sector.

The war in Ukraine erupted simply as tourism in Greece was coming again to life, with officers betting on a robust season following two years of lockdowns and restrictions.

But it has meant the lack of some 600,000 Russians and 240,000 Ukrainians who’ve cancelled reservations, mentioned Lyssandros Tsilidis, head of the Federation of Travel Agencies of Greece.

On the Russian aspect alone, the loss quantities to €700,000 (S$1 million), for Greece, whose financial system is determined by tourism for round 1 / 4 of nationwide revenue.

Greece closed its airspace to Russian flights after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24, consistent with different EU nations.

Russian nationwide provider Aeroflot additionally suspended all its worldwide flights from March 8.

The vacationer shortfall is acutely felt on the island of Crete, one among Greece’s premier journey locations.

Russian and Ukrainian travellers historically account for one in 10 guests to the island “of which Russians are the majority”, says Nikos Halkiadakis, president of the resort union of Heraklion.

“This clientele will not be replaced.”

‘We are not afraid’

Like a lot of the world, Greece rolled out varied lockdowns and restrictions because the pandemic took maintain in 2020, successfully grinding tourism to a halt.

After a benchmark yr in 2019 that noticed 33 million vacationers go to the nation, numbers in 2020 plummeted to 7.4 million – a 78 per cent drop, in line with the Bank of Greece.

Revenues additionally tumbled 76 per cent to €4.3 million.

But because the nation opened up final yr, arrivals jumped by 94 per cent and revenues shot up by 142 per cent, central financial institution figures confirmed.

In a bid to additional enhance customer numbers, the federal government has as soon as once more peeled again restrictions this yr.

Mandatory screening checks for travellers who maintain a European vaccination certificates have been scrapped in February.

And vaccine passes will now not be required in eating places, bars and outlets from May 1, whereas necessary masks indoors will probably be scrapped from June 1.

Though Russia’s invasion has considerably dampened hopes of a robust restoration this yr, all hope will not be misplaced.

Deputy tourism minister Sofia Zacharaki says specialists count on a “doubling” of final yr’s arrivals.

“The season has already portrayed a very encouraging image, which allows us to be optimistic,” she advised AFP.

Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias advised Skai TV Monday that some key locations together with Corfu, Santorini and Paros have been already 80 per cent full or extra.

Arrivals in Athens and Thessaloniki additionally elevated throughout Catholic Easter, he added.

Apart from denting customer numbers, Russia’s war in Ukraine has compounded energy-fuelled worth hikes that began final autumn.

Energy prices are up 70 per cent, and meals and drinks have elevated by 28 per cent, says Halkiadakis.

Still, Tsilidis is longing for a bounce-back, albeit slower than anticipated.

“After experiencing the worst in the past two years, we are not afraid, even if the pace of tourism recovery remains slow due to the war in Ukraine,” he mentioned.

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