Rise of Delta variant threatens Greece's tourism revival
Evangelo Sipsas in Athens
The tourist season in Greece is well under way and the industry is hoping it can continue to attract visitors, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
So far, the evidence is that, despite more cases, holidaymakers from across the world have been choosing to visit Greece this summer.
According to data analytics firm Cirium, Greece has a higher proportion of pre-pandemic level flights operating than other European holiday destinations.
The number of flights in July is up 130 percent on the same period in 2020. From May to July a total of 2.3 million holidaymakers visited Greece, compared with only 660,000 last year.
The president of the Hellenic chamber of hotels said the increase in numbers would not be possible if the government had not taken swift measures.
"We were, and we are, in discussions and collaboration with the government constantly in order to fine-tune this help that is still needed in the sector. Like we said, we are better than last year, but we are still very far from normal numbers. So this is the first way the government has contributed to this, because if we didn't have that we would be in a very difficult state," said Alexandros Vassilikos.
Germany raised alarm in the local tourism industry when it announced it had moved Greece, along with the Netherlands, to its list of high-risk destinations. At this stage, the German decision does not appear to have had a serious effect, as more than 260,000 German tourists visited Greece in June.
However, the German government is considering declaring Greece a "COVID-19 high-risk zone." That decision would be a blow to the Greek tourism industry.
"We are pushing the real data to the governments in order to make decisions. Of course we cannot say to Germany whether they should categorize us in A, B or C – that's their own rules, their own decisions, a sovereign decision," said Greece's Minister of Tourism Harris Theocharis.
But, he added, Germany must "base their decision on real data and not on fictitious data."
The safeguard Greece is putting in place is to demand proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival, but also mandatory tests three times a week for anyone working in hospitality.
With new measures almost every month and mandatory vaccinations for its citizens, the government says it is doing everything it can to keep the sun shining on Greek tourism.