Greece plans new rules for tourists this summer

Social distancing on beaches and resorts can be expected as Greece hopes to attract British holidaymakers this summer once coronavirus lockdown measures are relaxed.

Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis confirmed that he wanted visitors to return to the country, which relies heavily on tourism.

But specific new rules will have to be introduced.

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Theoharis told The Guardian: “We have to have new rules for hotels, new rules for beaches, new rules for pools, new rules for breakfast buffets, new rules for tour buses.

“Once measures are relaxed a good month will be required to prepare the ground for the [tourism] engine to get started.

“Tour operators are waiting and hoping we can come up with the right rules so that we can start bringing visitors in.

“We have to strike the right balance … be cautious, tough it out and make the best of it.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday as EU tourism ministers discussed measures for a “swift and effective” recovery of the sector, Theoharis said: “Obviously different European countries are on different parts of the cycle but all of us are starting to think about how to re-start the economic engines – the important part of the plan is how to allow travel and how to do this in a responsible way.”

Confirming that he wants people to take holidays to Greece this summer, the minister added: “Of course we will take precautions in terms of the requirements before travelling but also in terms of the way that we travel, the way that we stay and beach beds etc.

“Social distancing rules will apply but we have welcomed tourists for more than 50 years, we want to continue.”

Addressing the safety of travellers, he said: “We will continue taking very, very important precautions but we will do so while still allowing the economic activities.

“You should feel safe. Greece is a safe country and in many cases much safer than – I’m sorry to say – than your own country.”

It would be “very likely” that tests for coronavirus will be required before travel.

“We are discussing this with our epidemiologists and it is very likely that we will have some requirements before travelling but of course this will be done so that everyone has peace of mind when they travel and when they are staying abroad that they will not come in contact with – as much as it’s humanly possible – other people infected with the virus,” Theoharis added.

Meanwhile, Greek hotel group Aldemar Resorts is staying in touch on a regular basis with its UK tour operator partners, sharing information and ideas on the way forward.

Vice president Alexandros Angelopoulos said: “Greece is universally recognized as a country that has tackled the Covid-19 crisis in an efficient and balanced way.

“Not only have we contained the virus from spreading faster than anyone else, but also applied measures to avoid further contagion, such that today we are recognized as one of the safest destination in Europe.

“This, in itself, is the basis of our strategy to getting back to being the safe and attractive destination that we have a reputation for being.

“It will take time and we expect people to be tested before they board planes and from our part will be applying very strict health and safety protocols for staff and guests.”

Angelopoulos added: “In Crete and western Greece where our six hotels are located, the incidents of infection are none since the beginning of April.

“Although it is still too early to say whether we can expect an extension of the season given the late start, following on from the directives of the state and our tour operator partners, we will consider extending our operation past the month of October.

“Of course, this is not only up to us, but relies on global efforts to contain the virus and develop accurate measures for the protection of all people.”

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