GREECE will open its doors to holidaymakers by May 14.
The country's tourism minister Harry Theoharis made the announcement this afternoon, at the ITB 2021 conference.
Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and other top holiday destinations are all desperately trying to lure Brits with great deals, as much of Europe faces summer at home due to the abysmally slow rate of the vaccine rollout on the continent.
With the Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis announcing that the hotspot would be re-opening to holidaymakers on May 14, the race to attract UK visitors has accelerated.
A senior tourism sector official in Athens told the Sun: “We’re in a race to get them, in fact everyone in Europe is in a race to get them.
"If 3.5 million come as they did in 2019, it will be fantastic for us.”
Addressing the world’s largest tourism trade fair on Tuesday, Theoharis said the country had decided to adopt the slogan: “All you want is Greece.”
“This year and forever ‘all you want is Greece,’” he told delegates attending ITB Berlin 2021, this week being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“For the smile to return to your lips, with the hope you will take your life back all you want is Greece,” he said.
On Monday the Greek media referred to an all-out ‘war’ to lure tourists from the UK, by far the biggest market for Greece after the Germans.
The battle for Brits is hinged to the impressive pace of the vaccine rollout in the UK, now moving at triple the speed of anywhere in the EU.
Theoharis has waged a charm offensive in recent weeks, telling the UK media that as a proponent of the concept of vaccine passports, Athens is particularly eager to welcome inoculated Brits.
Greece and the UK are currently in talks over forging an agreement that would allow travellers with vaccination certificates to enter the country without the need for quarantine or Covid tests.
On Tuesday, Theoharis said visitors would be welcome if they fulfilled one of three criteria: they had been vaccinated, had antibodies or had conducted a CPR test that proved they were “negative.”
Greek tourist resorts and some of the more popular islands have reported a surge in bookings from the UK since Boris Johnson announced his government's roadmap out of the UK's third lockdown last month.
Cyprus, like Greece, has also jumped on the bandwagon, with the ever popular Mediterranean destination announcing that vaccinated Brits will be able to fly into the island for quarantine-free says from May 1.
The country's deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios told the Sun. "After the roadmap a lot of people have started booking, we have seen a noticeable uptick.
"It's too early to give figures but I can say over the next few weeks and days we will be in talks with all the tour operators. TUI, Jet 2, Love holidays, Easy Jet, Sunville, Mercury, Olympic will be among them."
Athens has been pushing for vaccine passports to be endorsed by the EU, saying certificates proving the Covid-status of travellers will help accelerate mass tourism.
Referring to inevitable queues at test stations, Mr Theocharis said last month: “And [tourists] wouldn’t have to stand in long lines at airports.
“Certificates are just an alternative to negative testing and [the money issue] is also an incentive even if progressively, as we go into the season, we’ll more likely to adopt the cheap and fast rapid tests …. but as I say it’s still a hassle standing in line getting tested .
“With this system, we’d be instituting two lanes in airports as it were. The vaccination lane and the non-vaccination lane which would facilitate travel quite a bit.”
The EU – in contrast to the UK, which has shown willing to debate the issue – has refused to even contemplate travel certificates before now.
In January, the bloc flatly turned down the idea when it was proposed by Athens.
This week senior EU officials, including Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen, finally conceded ground saying Brussels will address the issue at the next EU leaders’ summit on March 17.
But both she and her deputy, Margaritis Schinas, confirmed that logistically it was likely to take months before they are developed.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the technical or legal difficulties,” said Von der Leyen on Monday, a day before Schinas, a Greek politician, told media in Athens that he thought the passes would be ready “by the summer.”
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