As the European Commission gets ready to present a proposal to allow vaccinated people to freely travel across the bloc, countries such as Greece have already started working on their own vaccine passports.
Determined to open tourism to foreign visitors in the spring, a pilot phase of flights bringing visitors from some European countries, Israel and the United Kingdom will begin in April.
From mid-May, more countries will be added to the list of those who do not need to quarantine upon arrival.
Instead, they will need a vaccine certificate, an immune certificate or a negative COVID-19 result.
The Greek Ministry of Tourism has signed a “green pass” agreement with Israel and is working on similar bilateral agreements with 10 more countries; the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
“The plan is to allow both vaccinated and unvaccinated people with negative tests to be able to travel to Greece, with everyone subject to random testing upon arrival,” said Harry Theoharis, Greece’s tourism minister.
“Of course, for everybody’s peace of mind, people working in tourism will be vaccinated and at the same time, people that are found positive will be isolated in quarantine hotels. Other than that normal rules will apply and a smile is mandatory,” he added.
Greece hopes that the European Union will adopt a “vaccination certificate” to allow free travel for all those that have received the jab.
But if not, the country will proceed on its own, accepting tourists who have been vaccinated, even with the Russian and Chinese vaccines.
Theoharis explained that “we are very glad that our proposal about the “green pass” has been adopted by the European Commission and we hope for a swift resolution of this initiative, ensuring that both the legal and the technical sides are up to speed to save the summer”.
“If not Greece will have to adopt its own rules and of course recognise the vaccination certificate of each and every European country.”
Meanwhile, with its new slogan “All you want is Greece” those working in the tourism industry say they are fully prepared for the special requirements that the pandemic is imposing.
Hotels, which are opening their doors in May, are following the strict hygiene protocols that were applied last year.
By then the vaccination of the 300,000 employees of the tourism sector will have started and the health protocols for hotels will be updated.
“In 2020, Greek hoteliers proved they could effectively implement health protocols. We strictly followed all the rules. So, just a handful of coronavirus cases were detected in hotels. Demand for Greece is very high, although reservations have not been made yet,” said Grigoris Tasios, President of Greek Hoteliers.
Greece hopes to recover at least half of its pre- Covid-19 tourism traffic to help deal with the financial impact.
Watch Symela Touchtidou’s report in the video player, above.