Addressing correspondents of international media at the iconic island of Santorini on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about how the summer tourism season will officially reopen on Monday and presented his detailed insight on the government's plan for the next day in the country's most prominent industry, after the coronavirus pandemic.
Taking each to his own podium at the Greek Summer 2020 press conference, the Greek Premier and his advisor Thanassis Bakolas effectively launched the tourism season with Bakolas stating that Greece managed to impressively contain the pandemic and welcomed all the attendees to "the Greek summer," he exclaimed.
Mitsotakis said that nothing is the same after the pandemic and the fact that there can actually be a tourism season this year to begin with, is the result of hard work which will ensure that this summer is safe for all, including visitors and workers in the tourism sector. Putting the emphasis on tourism workers, he said that "a lot of money was spent to support our tourism sector, to make sure that they can survive this summer," he stressed, as the government put in place flexible working arrangements to protect hotel employees and also paid their social insurance contributions. On encouraging domestic tourism, he referred to a voucher program to support Greeks who qualify due to low incomes.
Successfully confronting the coronavirus crisis opened a new chapter that shows Greece now plays an important role in the heart of the European continent, he said, as dealing with it had everyone involved work hard to ensure that visitors stay safe and healthy, and he mentioned the country's readiness to tackle any coronavirus cases, should there be any. Preparing to launch the tourism season on June 15 was almost entirely based on the advice of health experts, he said.
"We need to continue to do the right thing," he said in reference to standing health safety protocols and restrictive measures against the coronavirus, as "we will be very strict when it comes to the basic parameters and guidelines that we put in place" for the tourism and hospitality sector, he assured all.
Yet the challenge is to shift from successfully combating the pandemic domestically to repeating the success in opening up to the rest of the world, he highlighted.
Looking ahead, he hoped that "If everything goes according to plan and by 2021 we have a vaccine or a treatment, 2021 is going to be a bumper year,' he exclaimed.
He noted that last year Greece welcomed 33 million tourists, but this year "we will have to work on a fraction of that number." It matters how comfortable people feel getting on a plane and flying to Greece or taking the car and driving to Greece, and mentioned that there's more than 10 million people who come to Greece by car each year; "not everyone comes to Greece by airplane, so a lot will depend on our ability to project that Greece is a safe destination," said the Greek Premier.
"I'm interested in making Greece the number one destination in Europe, the safest destination in Europe," the Prime Minister noted.
The Prime Minister also paid special attention to climate change and the need to protect Greece's unique natural environment by promoting sustainable tourism in the context of the country's unique natural environment, its special cultural heritage and the merited agri-food sector, as he said.
Tourism in Greece must focus on quality services, sustainability, and also offer incentives to people who want to invest in Greece. As the country has not focused so much on heavy industry, its natural environment, land and seas, are free of industrial pollution. This is why this government intends to render Greece a leading country in sustainable tourism, he asserted.
"We've demonstrated that the state can actually operate at a very high level," Mitsotakis said in his closing remarks, and expressed his gratitude about what he called the people's trust in his government, in the country's national health system and all the authorities that were involved in both protecting citizens and preparing the country for reopening to tourism.
"This is a very important legacy that we need to build upon," the Greek Prime Minister concluded.