SANTORINI, Greece (Reuters) – There is a new addition at a bar on Santorini. The beach lounge chairs are surrounded by plexiglass screens, a precaution against coronavirus once the island starts getting visitors again.
Beach bar owner Charlie Chahine says he does not like it, but if that is the way it has to be for tourists to return, then that is what he is doing.
“We hope these constructions you see are not going to be the future for beaches. We don’t want this, but if this is necessary, and if this is what people’s safety depends on, such a construction or any such construction – we (just) want to work, we want to get going,” said Chahine.
Businesses on Greece’s most popular holiday island are adopting all kinds of hygiene measures, anxious for the season to start.
They are aware they will have already missed months of business if the country opens to tourists in July, as the government has forecast as the country eases lockdown measures that began on March 23.
Santorini is a popular destination for tourists globally. Each summer its cobblestone streets are crammed. In 2018 2 million people came to this volcanic island. It is also a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons. Now the streets and rooftop terraces are empty.
Vice President of the Santorini Hotel Association Andreas Patiniotis said bookings in June last year were at 70%, while at the moment it hovers at 30% at most. He acknowledges things will not be easy.
“I believe we have to start somewhere, so that there is work for our suppliers, for our employees. There are so many people that depend on hotels.”
Hotel owner Panagiotis Loutos has been carrying out repairs on his property. Looking at his empty pool, he says it is not just the fears of financial loss. His heart breaks to see his hotel sitting empty.
“We are going to be ready in 10 days, that is the only thing that is sure. We see the (preparations) and we are happy, but it hurts, (because) the absence of people – it’s something you can’t even talk about,” he said.
(Reporting by Vassilis Triantafyllou; Additional reporting by Alkis Konstantinidis; writing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)