Greece's tourism industry is entering the final phase of the restarting process on July 1, when the country's regional airports reopen for international travellers.
Forecasting models for the expected number of arrivals this year are bedevilled by a number of unknowns, however, with experts noting that the unprecedented situation due to Covid-19 is likely to affect the behaviour of potential tourists, making any forecasts unreliable.
Signals from TUI, the world's biggest travel agency, bode well for tourist flow to Greece. As TUI Hellas Head of Region South & West Greece, Iceland, Lapland Georgios Dimas informed the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), nearly all source-markets for Greece with very few exceptions will be sending visitors to the country via TUI. Starting on July 1, barring any changes due to measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, flights will resume from Germany, Sweden, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and other markets will gradually open.
TUI flights from the United Kingdom to Greece are expected to begin on July 11, while TUI flights from Sweden to Greece begin on July 2.
The final number of arrivals, however, was hard to predict as the situation was extremely volatile, with the facts changing each day, with even flight bookings subject to last-minute cancellations and changes. Dimas said that TUI flights to Greece will initially be fewer and have lower capacity than in 2019 but bookings had started to pick up in the last week.
On destinations within the country, he said the smaller islands suffered from the disadvantage that most hotels there had not opened, while he sent a message of support to the hotels that TUI works with, noting that "there is room for everyone."
Speaking for Greek hoteliers, the president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels Alexandros Vasilikos told ANA said that the arrival of visitors from abroad "does not mean that hotels will be saved".
"The situation is very bad and nothing is comparable to any previous year," he added. The wager, according to Vasilikos, is to preserve the serious image built over the previous period with respect to managing the pandemic, in order to capitalise on this in the future.
Addressing the members of the chamber, he repeated the advice "we open and remain careful". He said hotels had made use of a platform outlining the health protocols for hotels and that the sector was geared toward protecting the health of both visitors and staff.
"Each hotelier opens with difficulties and with a higher operational cost but with a sense of their obligation. An entire community revolves around a hotel," Vasilikos said.
The head of the Athens Hoteliers Union Evgenios Vasilikos said that occupancy rates after the sector reopened on June 15 remained lower than expected, ranging between 10-20 pct, while advance bookings for July and August presaged a difficult winter ahead. He noted that many hotels were waiting to reopen in September, depending on the support announced by the central government, while especially year-round hotels were calling for additional support measures.