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Greece woos tourists with pledge of 'maximum' virus safety

 

Agence France-Presse

Athens  /  Fri, June 26, 2020  /  04:02 pm
Greece woos tourists with pledge of 'maximum' virus safety

A woman gazes across the view of the town of Fyra in the island of Santorini on June 14, 2020 as the country prepares for the return of tourists to Greece from around 30 countries by air, sea and land. (AFP/Aris Messinis)

Greece has taken every possible care to shield tourists from COVID-19 as it prepares to open additional airports to travelers on July 1, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday.

With a quarter of the nation's economy dependent on tourism, the government faces an urgent challenge to reassure potential visitors they can safely vacation in Greece as Europe begins to open back up to travel.

"Every possible care has been taken to enable us to receive visitors with the maximum safety possible from July 1," he told a Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) event.

Greece on July 1 will open regional and island airports to passenger flights, mostly from Europe.

"All destinations on the mainland and islands have reinforced medical facilities," the PM said.

While Greece officially declared a launch to the tourism season on June 15, many hotel owners have been sceptical about reopening owing to low demand, leaving thousands of seasonal employees in a precarious situation.

Mitsotakis' government faced criticism this week after the child of an unemployed hotel worker fainted from hunger on the island of Rhodes.

The mother of the nine-year-old girl, who is also raising another child on her own, said she was barely making ends meet because emergency lockdown stipends created by the state were held up by bureaucratic delays.

"My supplies simply ran out... nobody has a job here, Rhodes is a dead town," she told Antenna TV on Thursday.

"Last year I would make 1,000 euros a month."

"Many children will faint, not just my own," she said.

The PM did not refer to the incident in his speech.

But he called on the sector to "support every tourism staffer and their families."

Greece has so far registered fewer than 200 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Mitsotakis on Thursday said Greece had to be "smart and creative" about marketing itself as a virus-safe destination.

He said the number of positive tests at the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki since June 15 were "around one in a thousand...and all actually asymptomatic."

According to Bank of Greece figures, the country in 2019 had more than 34 million visitors who spent over 18 billion euros.

Operators say a realistic revenue goal this year is around 8 billion euros.

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