Greece has formally opened to visitors, kicking off a summer season it hopes will resurrect its vital tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Greece also opened its museums, including the Acropolis museum, home to renowned sculptures from Greek antiquity.
As of now, foreign tourists will be allowed in Greece if they have been vaccinated or can show negative Covid-19 test results. Travel between regions, including to the islands, will also be allowed for those with negative tests or vaccinations.
“Greece is offering what people need. Calm and care-free moments on the road towards normality,” tourism minister Harry Theoharis said.
The country has been rolling out vaccines to its islands and hopes to vaccinate most of them by the end of June. The government says vaccines and rapid testing, as well as warmer weather allowing oudoor activities, mean visitors can travel safely.
As the pandemic brought international travel to a halt in 2020, Greece suffered its worst year for tourism on record, with 7 million visitors compared with a record 33 million in 2019. Tourist revenues tumbled to EUR 4 billion (USD 4.9 billion) from EUR 18 billion. This year, it is aiming for 40% of 2019 levels.
On the island of Mykonos, one flight was given a water salute upon landing. Four islands in the south Aegean, including Mykonos, received 32 international flights from countries including Sweden, Germany and Qatar. Corfu, in the Ionian sea, welcomed visitors from Germany and France.
Greeks also welcomed the lifting of lockdown measures, with scores of people leaving for the islands or holiday homes on the mainland.
Greece fared better than much of Europe during the first wave of the pandemic, but rising infections later in 2020 forced it to impose several lockdowns to protect its struggling health system.