We'll take any good news at this point: Greece is aiming to reopen to tourists this summer – but with a lot of catches.
The European hotspot for beaches and history has among the lowest confirmed cases (and deaths) of coronavirus throughout Europe. But Greece relies on tourism for 20% of its GDP, so letting travelers back in is largely seen as a necessary step.
So Greek officials are starting to lay out a roadmap for reopening that other countries could borrow from: perhaps limiting which citizens of the world can get in to start, and implementing rigorous health screenings for those allowed to enter the country. Some things will undoubtedly remain closed to visitors and customers.
“The tourism experience this summer may be slightly different from what you've had in previous years,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN. “Maybe no bars may be open, or no tight crowds, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece – provided that the global epidemic is on a downward path.”
Here's what you can expect.
Will You Be Able to Travel to Greece?
Currently, Greece has suspended entry for all non-EU citizens through May 18. There is also a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country.
But it seems Greece won't throw its doors open to everyone this summer. The country is discussing opening its borders first to countries that have successfully curbed coronavirus: nations like Norway, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Australia.
Whether U.S. travelers will be allowed immediately remains to be seen. Either way, it will be harder. What few nonstop flights from the U.S. to Athens (ATH) are currently on hold, and there's no sign of when they may resume.
Health Screenings Upon Arrival
Upon arrival, everyone will be tested for COVID-19. Each person will be swabbed and results will be given to you in less than 12 hours.
Mitsotkis, talking to CNN, said he would hope that all passengers will be screened for COVID-19 or antibodies prior to getting on a plane making it even less likely passengers will be bringing the virus with them.
What Will be Open?
Your Greece vacation might look and feel much different. The country has a detailed plan of how it will re-open for daily life and eventually allow tourism again.
Hotels will be allowed to re-open on June 1, along with restaurants and coffee shops. Restaurants will only be able to operate in outdoor spaces until later in June. Entertainment and sports venues will also be allowed to re-open at this time with capacity limited to 60%.
Ferry service to the islands won't re-open until at least mid-June. Masks are mandatory on all public transport, taxis, elevators, and hospitals. People that don't comply may be fined up to 150 euros (about $163 USD).
What does this mean for travelers? Expect limited entry into tourist sites and a big focus on outdoor activities. There will be a larger emphasis on small group tours. You won't see large tour buses lining up anytime soon. Bars and nightlife may be limited and outdoor eating will be the norm.
This is what hope looks like. Even if a trip to Greece isn't in your summer plans, this is great news for travelers.
Could Greece's plans to re-open its economy and slowly crack the door open for travel be a guide for other countries looking to do the same? We hope so.