Greece — and indeed most of the world — has been closed to South African visitors for many months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With summer around the corner, Greece has announced that it intends to reopen its borders to all international holidaymakers in May, after a trial programme of reopening to neighbouring Balkan countries.
GREECE IMPLEMENTS PHASED REOPENING
Greekcitytimes reports that Greece will be reopening its borders to nationals from Israel, the Balkans and the United Kingdom (UK)from just before Easter.
The partial reopening will be an experiment enabling authorities to determine whether Greece can open its borders to all international visitors from 14 May. The intention behind the reopening to select nationalities on 16 April is to create a template for the full reopening and to test the new entry protocols.
The first visitors to arrive in Greece are expected to be from the Balkans.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis announced this after a recent visit to the European Union (EU) state of Romania. A sizeable 1.4 million tourists visited Greece from Balkan states in 2019.
“I am sure that before Easter we will have the pleasure of welcoming a large number of Romanian tourists to Greece,” Theocharis said, as quoted in Greekcitytimes.
ALL NATIONALITIES FOR SUMMER
Greek authorities will monitor the initial phase of reopening and use the data and results from this process to determine whether the country can welcome all nationalities back from 14 May.
It appears that Greece is eager to reopen its borders and allow entry to foreigners wishing to spend money in the country. This is in an effort to save the Greek economy from further devastation which resulted from the lack of tourism dollars that were earned last year.
WILLINGNESS TO WELCOME VISITORS
The Greek Ambassador to Russia, Ekaterini Nassika, recently announced that the Greek Embassy in Russia would begin issuing Schengen visas to all persons who wish to travel to Greece.
“The responsibility for issuing visas to visit our country rests entirely with our Consulate General. Let me assure you that its employees are very experienced people and they are ready for anything. So we can ensure the issuance of Schengen visas to everyone who wants to visit our country,”Nassika pointed out in this regard, as quoted in Schengenvisainfo.com
PREVENTING FURTHER ECONOMIC DEVASTATION
Greece lost huge amounts of revenue as a result of its closed borders and not being able to host tourists during the peak Summer months last year. Many of the country’s nationals are engaged in the tourism and hospitality industry which has suffered tremendously since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Greece welcomed 31 million visitors to its shores. The country hopes that it can entice between 40% and 50% of its 2019 tourist numbers back in 2021. This is critical for the country’s tourism-dependent economy. A second summer without tourists will lead to further economic devastation for locals and businesses.