Greece is gaining an early advantage over regional rival Turkey in attracting foreign tourists back to the country as it prepares to open its resorts to vaccinated visitors this week.
The governments of Greece and Turkey rely heavily on tourism for economic prosperity. Tourism accounts for about a fifth of Greece’s economy, while Turkey needs the foreign currency earnings that tourists provide to finance a large current account deficit and bolster its ailing lira.
Greece re-opened its organised beaches on Saturday as it prepared for the arrival of foreign visitors on May 15. Since a second lockdown in November, the country has gradually eased restrictions on its population, opening bars and restaurants last week.
As well as drawing back tourists from mainland Europe, Greece expects Britain to add it to a ‘green list’ of destinations from which travellers will not have to isolate on their return home, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said on Sky News on Tuesday, according to Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
In Turkey, the population is in the middle of what the government terms “full closure” – all non-essential businesses are closed, as well as shops and schools. Despite the lockdown that began in late April after cases of COVID-19 spiked to a record, the government says foreign tourists are welcome to come and roam the country’s empty streets and museums.
Turkey remains off limits to foreign tourists from most of Europe who want to return home without quarantine. Britain has added the country to a ‘red list’ of destinations, effective from Wednesday, that will require its citizens to stay in a quarantine hotel upon their return. Turkey’s plans to host the European Champions League final in Istanbul on May 29 and the Turkish Grand Prix on June 11-13 are now under serious threat.
New cases of COVID-19 in Turkey fell to less than 14,500 on Tuesday, hovering around the lowest levels since mid-March, the Tourism Ministry said. Infections spiked to a record of over 60,000 in April. The country of 85 million people ranks fifth globally for infections since the start of the outbreak, with more than 5 million cases, according to Worldometer.
Greece, with a population of just over 10 million, reported 3,172 new infections on Tuesday. It ranks 50th globally for cases, which total 367,076 since the outbreak.