ATHENS (Reuters) – The head of Greece’s tourism confederation SETE expressed “restrained optimism” on Friday for a recovery in the industry this year after the hammering from the COVID-19 pandemic, forecasting revenues could reach 40% of 2019 levels.
Greece, which depends on tourism for a fifth of its economy and one in five jobs, is formally launching the start of its tourism season on Saturday.
It suffered its worst tourism season in decades in 2020 with just 7 million tourists and 4 billion euros in revenues, down from a record 33 million visitors and 18 billion euros in revenues in 2019. GDP fell 8% last year.
“Forecasts have always been risky in tourism… even more so now, during the pandemic,” SETE President Yannis Retsos told an economic forum in Athens when asked to make a projection for this year.
“People have been under a lot of pressure in the past year and will plan holidays, even at the last minute. If we have the recovery we are hoping for in the second half, we can expect (revenues) in the range of 40-50% (of 2019),” he said, adding 40% was the most realistic scenario.
As of Friday, Greece has lifted months-long lockdown restrictions and reopened its museums and famed archaeological sites including the ancient Acropolis in Athens. Earlier this month, it re-opened restaurants after six months.
Foreign tourists will be allowed to visit as long as they have been vaccinated or can show negative COVID-19 test results.
Britain, one of Greece’s biggest markets, has so far kept it off its short “green list” of countries that travelers can visit from May 17 without having to quarantine on their return home.
Speaking at the same conference, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said Germany, its other big market, had lifted quarantine rules for those returning from Greece.
A German government source told Reuters on Wednesday that the cabinet approved plans to allow people who have been fully-vaccinated, recovered or had a negative test to enter Germany without having to go into quarantine.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Frances Kerry)