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The Coronavirus Pandemic Impact on Greek Tourism
It hasn’t been a typical summer in Greece. As a sailing charter company, traveling through the Cyclades, we’ve seen and experienced the impact Covid-19 has had on tourism. As always, the islands welcomed an abundance of tourists, however, there were some notable differences from past years.
The season started much later this year and the diversity of tourists was vastly limited. For example, Vacation Yachting is our family-run, one-yacht, sailing charter company. Generally, we sail the Cyclades islands with guests from May to October and the majority of our clientele are Americans.
I’ll assume you see where this is going…
Shorter Tourist Season
As I mentioned before, our sailing charters, and the majority of other tourist attractions, start running in May and begin preparations for the winter in October. Those working in tourism in Greece count on those months each year. But, unfortunately, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the travel bans, that number of working months was cut drastically.
Small Island Impact
Patrik, my husband and Vacation Yachting’s skipper, and I take guests to many lesser-known, smaller islands in the Cyclades. One of those islands is Kythnos, located in the Western Cyclades. We stopped in Kythnos at the beginning of August, during our FIRST charter.
We sailed our guests to a well-known tourist harbor called Loutra. Loutra is quaint and has a small beach boasting a natural hot spring. There are many cafes and restaurants at this tiny, harbor-side village.
Patrik and I know some of the kind people who run and work for these businesses. One man told us the taverna he works for opened two weeks prior to our arrival. He also mentioned that, that was the case for all similar, tourist-centric businesses in the area. In other words, the season in Loutra began toward the end of July, when they would normally start in May.
Diversity of Tourists
The season started later, and once everything opened, there was definitely an influx of tourists in Greece. But, not as great of an influx as usual.
Europeans flocked to Greece, as always, in August, since that’s the typical holiday month in Europe. At each stop it was common to hear people speaking French, Italian, German, Dutch, and, of course, Greek. But, other than those from the UK, groups were not speaking English. Why? Because U.S. tourists are still not allowed to vacation in Greece.
Lack of Americans
I think the lack of American tourists this year is affecting some tourist industries more than others. For our company, Vacation Yachting, the travel ban from the U.S. to Greece has had a huge effect.
As I said, the majority of our bookings come from Americans, and this year was no different. Our season looked to be shaping up nicely by January of this year. We nearly had a fully booked season at that point. However, we were expecting a plethora of guests from the States.
By February, booking requests ceased. Clientele, planning to sail with us this summer, began questioning their travel plans. By April, all our charters booked for May were cancelled. By May, all our charters booked for June were cancelled. And, by June, all our American guests cancelled their trips.
This summer we went from a prospectively incredible season, to a five charter season. But, on the bright side, we were lucky to have some European bookings this year, which isn’t always the case.
Who is Impacted?
Companies who rely on American tourism, or even Brazilian tourism (the case for one of our friends), are experiencing the impact of Covid-19 more than those who heavily rely on European tourism.
Coronavirus Regulations on the Islands
Different islands have different rules for containing the coronavirus. Some islands had to adopt strict restrictions due to an increase in cases. A few of these islands include Poros, Paros, Antiparos, and Mykonos.
We’ve visited Paros many times already this year and we obeyed the following rules:
- masks were required everywhere, inside or outside.
- shops, bars and restaurants could only be open from 7 AM to 11 PM (before, bars and restaurants could be open well past 2 AM).
- At an eating or drinking establishment, only four people were allowed to a table, unless a larger group consisted of immediate family members.
At the end of the day, these rules didn’t hinder the enjoyment and activity of tourists in Paros. And, other islands don’t currently have curfews or strict rules. The only rule is that people wear masks in stores and markets.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on Greece. But, despite the shorter season and decrease in tourists, people are still attracted to the beauty of this country, and they are still enjoying their holidays on the islands.