Tourism Minister Theocharis answers burning questions from the Greek tourism sector
On the initiative of FedHATTA, Minister of Tourism Haris Theocharis met online with the largest travel agents (inbound and outbound tourism) of Greece, members of HATTA, and foreign tour operators specializing in our country to discuss the problems faced by the industry as the country opens to international tourists after the Covid-19 crisis.
Also present were Sotiris Tsiodras, infectious disease specialist and head of the Committee of the Ministry of Health in the fight against the pandemic, and Christos Hatzis, a member of the Committee of the Ministry of Health.
Mr. Theocharis emphasized that the ministry’s goal is: “A gradual and coordinated opening of Greek tourism” The Minister explained that the goal is the coordinated opening of Greece to international tourism and asked for the understanding of the travel agents, the sector that handles the most important part of the tourist flow internationally and which has recorded great losses since the beginning of the health crisis.
Mr. Theocharis continued, “Our goal is for the country to open safely to international tourism and not to be forced to take back such a decision, because that would be catastrophic. It is better to open gradually and safely, than having to reverse the decision.”
During the meeting, representatives of travel agencies and tour operators explained the need for financial relief measures for their businesses, given the unprecedented crisis, and raised the following issues with the minister:
A number of issues were raised by the participating travel agents, and the President of FedHATTA, Lysandros Tsilidis, proposed to the Minister that the Co-op Advertising Plan, currently only available to travel offices abroad, be extended to Greek travel agencies. Greek agencies cooperate with numerous professionals abroad, and can thus significantly expand the dynamics of this program, at a time when it is important to have as wide a reach as possible.
Mr. Theocharis, after hearing the concerns of professionals, assured them that the Ministry, in cooperation with the relevant Ministries and FedHATTA, will do whatever is necessary to answer any questions and facilitate the operation of tourist offices. However, the guiding factor for the decisions will be the gradual opening of Greek tourism, so that there is no risk of reversal.
“We are in close cooperation with the doctors, so that we can open,” said Mr. Theocharis. “We try and push to give as much visibility to the market as possible. The clearer things are, the sooner the whole market will open.”
At the level of financial support, he stated that there is not much room, but the possibility remains open, with the final decision resting with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
Regarding the health protocols, the Minister said that the measures will gradually be relaxed for tourist buses, as also happened in coastal shipping. “There will be a reassessment of the situation every 15 days in cooperation with the doctors, in order to improve the transport conditions,” he said.
Regarding the conferences, the minister stressed that, like the concerts, because they are places of mass influx of people, they will be the last to open. He requested that the protocols for conference tourism, prepared by HAPCO, be sent to the Ministry, so that they can be processed in collaboration with the Committee of Physicians.
Regarding aviation, he said that the country moves according to the list of EASA airports and the light version of the protocol is applied, with random sampling checks at the airport, or the strict one, according to the risk level of the origin of the flight.
Mr. Tsiodras referred to solutions for the control of cases at the airports, the possible health opinion for those who have passed the virus, as well as the possible control by the tour operators regarding the health certificates of their travelers, in order to ensure a level of security. The solution of high-risk countries in terms of managing visitors must be adopted, as it will give the country an advantage.
The following tourism offices participated: George Dimas (TUI HELLAS – Germany, UK, France, Scandinavia, Netherlands), Dimitris Haritidis (TEZ TOUR HELLAS – Russia, Ukraine, Baltic States), Giannis Papadakis (DTS/DER – Germany, Czech Republic, Scandinavia), Costas Markakis (CRETAN HOLIDAYS – Netherlands, Belgium, Germany), George Masmanidis (MOUZENIDIS TOURS – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Balkans), Michael Vamiedakis (DANAOS TRAVEL – Germany, Czech Republic, Israel), Christos Michalakis (GEM TRAVEL – UK, Israel, Eastern Europe, Cruises), Euripides Samaras (BIG TRAVEL – Russia), Tasos Hatziliamis (DESTINATION ONE – Poland, Czech Republic, Balkans), Savvas Kampouros (TRAVEL EXCHANGE – Germany, France, Benelux, Eastern Europe, Italy), Napoleon Patras (FIRST TRAVEL – Germany, Israel, Russia, Austria, Slovakia, Italy), Spyros Halikiopoulos (CORFU TOURIST SERVICES – Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Russia), Dimitris Diavatis (TRAVEL COMPANY – UK, Hungary, Scandinavia), Dionysis Gianniotis (CORFU CONNECT – UK, Scandinavia), Andreas Lychnos (SUPER TRAVEL – UK, Netherlands, Germany), Markos Spyromilios (SIVA TRAVEL – USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa), Aristidis Tsaldaris (HORIZON TOURS – MICE from USA, Canada and Europe), Giannis Psomakis (REFLECTIONS TRAVEL – Europe in general except France), Vassilis Sakellaris (TOURGREECE – USA, Canada, France), Eirini Toli (President of HAPCO / ERA Conferences), Spyros Hambas (ORANGE CRUISES / TRAVEL WAY – Cruises from USA, Europe, Australia), Chrysostomos Kalafatis (FILOS HOLIDAYS – Balkans, Turkey, Middle East, Italy, Israel, Netherlands) and Theodoros Sotiridis (BLOOM TRAVEL – China).