After the difficult global situation over the course of the last year, tourism all around the world was dealt a serious blow. As countries begin to cautiously slide back out of lockdowns, a lot of questions still remain. Are people comfortable enough to travel again? Will it be enough to pull tourist-reliant regions out of trouble?
One region that has been particularly crushed by the lack of tourism over the last year is Greece. For Greeks, the reality of economic hardship is not a distant memory: it was only 2018 when the Greek Financial Crisis finally came to an end. So, this year needs to be a banner year for tourism for many far-flung islands in the Aegean Sea. But, could more tourism just make things worse?
The past year has been tough on people. The mental health toll from being locked indoors for months on end has been immense, and the impact to economies as people sheltered in place was equally devastating. For small communities that live and die based on tourism, it was an unwinnable catch-22: do you let someone bring illness to your island, or do you starve to death?
Now, even as lockdowns are lifted, some in the EU have suggested that Greece might be too hasty in inviting tourists back into the country. However, Greek officials feel like there is no choice here. “Many do not understand what the point of the lockdown was, as it lasted six months and today, we still have many cases […] Nonetheless, a new lockdown in the coming months is unlikely, because the economy would not allow it,” argues Giannis Galanopoulos, an executive member of the Greek medical board OENGE.
Many Europeans are ready to get back out there and enjoy this year. After what feels like a “lost year” in 2020, few are eager to stay home for another entire season. As regulations ease and the safety of travel becomes less of a question, it’s not surprising to see people eager to visit the stunning Greek islands once the country reopens on May 14.
For several small fishing villages across the Aegean, it’s this or bankruptcy.
During a press conference Akis Skertsos, the Deputy Minister of Government Work in Greece explained his excitement for the season ahead. “After six months of lockdown, Greeks themselves feel like tourists in their own country. Finally, we can enjoy a souvlaki with a beer as if it were the first time.”