Forget Covid Tourists return to Greece
Church in Oia (Santorini, Greece).

Forget Covid: Tourists return to Greece

Tourists basked in the warmth, sun and crystal waters of Crete on Friday for long-awaited holidays as Greece kickstarted its tourism season after last year’s pandemic misery.

“I hope to forget this damn Covid,” said Jil Wirries, a 28-year old student from Hanover, Germany, as he collected his luggage at the island’s Heraklion airport. “Everything is terrible in Germany. Aside from the weather, everything is closed and people are depressed, including me. I’m so happy to be here,” he said.

Greece and Europe’s other tourism hotspots are vying to woo back visitors after the pandemic wrecked last year’s holiday season as countries imposed travel bans and quarantines. France and Spain launched tourism campaigns this week while Italy said Friday it was scrapping a quarantine requirement for visitors from the EU, Britain and Israel who test negative for the coronavirus.

Portugal said it would allow British tourists visit the country again from Monday after London placed the country on its safe list — just in time for fans heading to the May 29 Champions League final in Porto. Tourism is crucial to the Greek economy, as it accounts for 20 percent of GDP.

“We are raising anchor,” Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis declared as he launched the holiday season Thursday evening from the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon near Athens.

The new holiday season couldn’t come soon enough for restaurateurs and cafe owners eagerly preparing for patrons to come back after suffering so long under coronavirus lockdown measures.

“We hope this will be a good season because the winter was difficult for all of us, employers, employees and the tourist sector,” said Alexandros Koukourakis as he set up tables and chairs at his restaurant near the old town of Chania in Crete.

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