Summer 2020: The Death of the American Tourist in Greece?



The ancient Greek archaeological site at Delphi. Dennis Jarvis/Wikimedia Commons

The news, it seems, is rather bleak at this point for Americans planning to spend their holidays in Greece and the rest of Europe this summer, as the EU announced plans to gradually re-open travel — but only between countries with similar coronavirus risk profiles.

Even if flights between the United States and Europe restart soon, the new plans leave little room for the American tourist in the foreseeable future.

The key to any successful reopening in Europe is based entirely on risk assessment, meaning that anyone coming from a nation deemed risky or careless will be the first to be banned.

Simply put, anyone who lives in a country where there has been what the EU deems a lax approach to the pandemic won’t be welcome anytime soon.

An update posted on http://gr.usembassy.gov, the website for the US Embassy in Greece includes the following information: “Non-EU citizens may not enter Greece until June 15.  Exceptions include spouses or minor children of EU/Schengen nationals, long-term residents, members of government delegations, and passengers in transit.  Check with your airline for document requirements as your marriage certificate or your children’s birth certificates may be required to board.

“We have no information beyond June 15 and cannot answer whether your summer trip will be able to proceed.  When the Greek government makes an announcement, we will update this information.”

Huge blow

This is undoubtedly a huge blow for Greek tourism and the country’s economy, because a record 1.2 million Americans spent their vacation in Greece last year.

The number of US travelers to Greece increased by more than 40 percent between 2016-2018, from 779,000 visitors in 2016 to almost 1.1 million in 2018. The most popular destinations, according to the Bank of Greece’s data for 2018, were Attica, the South Aegean and the Peloponnese.

The average daily expenditures of tourists from the United States in 2018 was almost 30 percent higher than tourists from other countries.

Diaspora

For the hundreds of thousands of Greeks living in the US, Australia, Canada and elsewhere in the world, this summer’s annual pilgrimage to the homeland is a particularly difficult one, especially for those not holding a Greek passport and are not Greek citizens.

Diaspora Greeks usually travel with their families to Greece. In many cases, children do not have a Greek passport, and as it stands right now, that in itself would exclude them from traveling.

The Greek authorities who say they are ready to open up to tourism beginning on July 1 could perhaps loosen up their bureaucratic strictures during the coronavirus era to allow non-passport holding members of the Greek diaspora to travel to Greece.

Dino Gerousis, a data analyst and consultant from Illinois, told Greek Reporter recently that he is daydreaming of travels in Greece.

“Flying wearing a mask for 8 to 10 hours is rough,” he added, “but I’d be willing to do that. I have thought of going to the Ionian Islands and then to Patras to visit my family and friends if possible. With that said, I’m taking the coronavirus very seriously.”

Gerousis is not alone amongst the millions of Greeks living abroad who has kept strong ties with his homeland and who is longing for another opportunity to return this summer.

“About 70% of people I have spoken with won’t be going to Greece this summer,” George Kounoupis, a well-known Greek American lawyer told Greek Reporter. “If they had legal matters and planned on going to the kafenio to hire their cousin’s lawyer, that trip has been canceled and they have turned to us instead.”

Kounoupis says it is not so much the coronavirus situation in Greece that has made his clients leery of traveling, but the chance of contracting the virus while in transit in airports.