Sign Up for Our Monthly Europe Newsletter
Americans intrigued in recent weeks by headlines heralding the reopening of Greece’s tourism industry got some good and bad news earlier this month.
As the European Union relaxed restrictions on nonessential travel, the country began welcoming international visitors arriving via commercial flights on June 15 at both its Athens and Thessaloniki airports. According to the Greek National Tourism Organization’s website, visitors arriving from countries with “good epidemiological features” — which include countries such as Germany, Australia, Israel, South Korea and even China — face no mandatory testing or quarantine protocols.
The U.S. did not, however, make that list of countries with positive epidemiological features, so Americans arriving in Greece will face mandatory COVID-19 testing and be quarantined for a minimum of seven days and up to 14 days. (Be sure to check Greek National Tourism Organization’s website for the latest updates.)
As of June 17, 3,203 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a total of 187 related deaths have been reported in Greece, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
For the final stage of Greece’s tourism reopening plan, which begins July 1, international flights will be allowed into all airports in Greece. According to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website, “Visitors are subject to random tests upon arrival, [but] additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date.”
RELATED: When and How Will International Destinations Reopen?
Mike Salvadore, owner of 58 Stars Travel, a Travel Leaders affiliate in Kenmore, Wash., says he’s been fielding recent inquiries from clients about visiting Greece. However, the quarantine regulations through July 1 for U.S. travelers — as well as the ambiguity about what will be mandatory for Americans afterward — has folks uneasy about booking this summer.
“This quarantine issue is a big deal,” Salvadore said. “People are really hesitant about taking a long trip like that and then needing to stay quarantined for any period of time.”
Candy Davis, a Virtuoso advisor at En Route Travel in Pacific Palisades, Calif., says she had many Greece trips booked for this summer that have been canceled. She hasn’t since seen much interest in new bookings, either.
Davis attributes that lack of appeal to Greece’s current quarantine for U.S. travelers, but she feels the country’s impressive COVID-19 response has provided its tourism industry with a good foundation for recovery.
“Greece is on the right track because people are going to look at countries in terms of how many cases do they have, how many deaths have they had,” Davis said. “In that respect, Greece is doing everything right.”
Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations for Travel Leaders’ parent company, Internova Travel Group, says that in recent weeks, Greece has been one of the most frequently asked about destinations by clients.
“Greece is running in the top five of places people are looking into to see where to go,” said Vlitas, who is a first-generation Greek American. “We have had a lot of requests.”
Vlitas points to the country’s low COVID-19 numbers as a key factor in that popularity. He adds that many of Greece’s competing destinations in the Mediterranean — such as Italy, Spain, and Turkey — have really struggled with the virus.
“I think there’s just less anxiety about going someplace that fared much better during the pandemic,” he said.
RELATED: What Is the Future of Fam Trips?
What’s Selling in Greece?Hotels, restaurants, commercial shops and outdoor archaeological sites currently are all open in Greece, according to its national tourism website. Travelers can now visit the destination’s museums, too, though visitor numbers will be limited.
Salvadore says he has been booking trips for clients to Greece later this fall. The season is his own favorite time to visit, and he feels hopeful that quarantine restrictions for American travelers will be less rigorous by then.
Being able to present options to clients regarding where and how they can get their money back — if needed — has been vital for Salvadore.
“What I’ve been telling people is, ‘Let’s look at the fall. Let’s work with suppliers that have a [flexible booking] policy,’” he said. “So, if we get to a point where it feels like things are not opening the way we want, then we could look at additional opportunities or rescheduling.”
Christos Stergiou, owner of Athens-based True Greece, which regularly sells customized vacations to U.S. clients, says his company has also booked trips for Americans later this year.
“It’s certainly better than no interest at all, which was the case just a few weeks ago,” he said. “And it has helped that we’ve adjusted our deposit policy to provide 100% credit of the deposited amount for a future trip if the customer doesn’t end up feeling comfortable.”
RELATED: Pandemic Insurance Coverage May Be Coming Soon
Diana Traficante, a Virtuoso advisor and En Route Travel affiliate in Westlake, Calif., suggests Greek destinations and products that allow for more isolated experiences. For example, villa rentals, rather than hotel bookings, may offer more appeal.
“Or maybe the less traveled, smaller islands such as Paros or Zakynthos — those kinds of places would definitely be of interest to clients,” she said. “Another idea is yachting rather than cruising; a private yacht through the islands would probably be very enticing.”
Salvadore says he has spoken to several clients interested in private experiences in Greece, including private jet options.
“Anything where seclusion is an opportunity has been popular,” he said.
Vlitas, says that Delta Air Lines will be the first airline restarting nonstop service from the U.S. to Greece on July 16.
He adds that it’s still crucial for advisors to thoroughly understand what clients want.
“If clients are looking to go to Greece and go out at night for that party scene, then this isn’t the year to go,” he said. “If they’re looking to see the beautiful water, enjoy beaches, eat local food at a nice tavern and have a quieter vacation, then they should consider it — if they feel safe and comfortable to do so.”
The DetailsThe Greek National Tourism Organization www.visitgreece.gr