Greece reopened its regional airports to international flights on Wednesday, pinning its hopes on a recovery in tourism after a three-month lockdown.
The Mediterranean nation, emerging from a decade-long debt crisis, has been unwinding travel restrictions to kick-start its tourism sector, which accounts for a fifth of its economic output and employs 700,000.
“We decided in this weird time to come because we feel that it’s a safe country,” said Suzana Vosatkova from the Czech Republic, as she arrived at the airport in Rhodes.
Dozens of flights were expected on Wednesday at Greece’s 18 regional airports, which link to some of its most popular resorts. All travellers must fill in a passenger locator form (PLF) https://travel.gov.gr at least 48 hours before entering the country. Random tests will be conducted upon arrival.
Greece’s two main airports opened last month but more flights were allowed from July 1, from non EU countries.
The European Union gave approval on Tuesday to leisure or business travel from 14 countries outside its borders. From its initial “safe list” it excluded Russia and the United States, both significant tourism markets for Greece.
The country has managed to contain coronavirus infections to 3,409 since its first case in February. But its economy is expected to shrink by at least 8% this year.
The conservative government faces the tough task of opening Greece to foreign visitors and preventing a new virus outbreak. The country reported 20 new cases on Tuesday, nine of them arriving by air, government officials said.
“It’s a calculated risk. We do not rush things, we take it one step at a time,” Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis told Reuters.
Greece is following EU directives on who is allowed into the country. Direct flights from Britain, Sweden and Turkey will not be permitted until July 15.