Greece, Israel Mull Coronavirus-Free Tourist Zone

The Tourism Ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus have been discussing a proposal to create a “safe zone” for tourism between the three countries which have successfully until now dealt with the coronavirus outbreak, according to Israeli media reports on Tuesday.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is cautiously examining the Greek initiative, which would not go into effect at least until mid-June.

A spokesperson for the Greek Tourism Ministry declined to comment on the report, but told Greek Reporter that “the Israeli tourist market is of great interest to us. We have been in talks with our Israeli counterparts on a number of initiatives.”

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis had earlier stated “Israel is one of our strategic targets for the reopening of tourism in Greece.

“As a result, we have already started discussions and preliminary phases on how to align our hygiene standards and protocols, which will allow travel to resume between the two countries. This is still early stages, but we are very hopeful that we can come to a mutual agreement.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that discussions between the three countries of Israel, Greece and Cyprus on the matter are in the very early stages and Israel is still researching whether or not creating such a safe zone would even be possible.

The logic behind creating an Israel-Greece-Cyprus zone is that people are less likely to be willing to travel long distances in the coming months, but may be more open to visiting neighboring countries. The economies of Greece and Cyprus rely heavily on tourism, which was only 5.9 percent of Israel’s GDP in 2018.

One of the major obstacles to creating a safe zone for tourism between the three countries, newspaper says, is the existing mandatory quarantines for arrivals from abroad; Israel currently requires two weeks of isolation after foreign travel.

Another issue is that Greece and Cyprus are both EU member states which have open borders with the rest of the Schengen Area, under normal circumstances.