Greece will allow direct international flights to Athens starting June 15, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced this week, the first step toward normalizing the country's tourism industry.
While tourists will be allowed in, though only those from countries with acceptably low rates of virus infections would be first permitted. Those first countries, according to reports from Greece's SKAI News, do not include the United States or Canada, but rather countries like Norway, Denmark, Austria, and more.
"The tourism period begins June 15, when seasonal hotels can reopen, and direct international flights to our tourist destinations will gradually begin July 1," Mitsotakis said in a televised address. A list of nations resuming flights to Greece would be announced by the end of May.
Tourists will be allowed to enter Greece without taking a coronavirus test or remaining in quarantine, but sample tests will be conducted on tourists.
Beaches re-opened over the weekend, while the Acropolis in Athens opened to visitors again on Monday along with over 200 archaeological sites. Bars and restaurants are expected to resume operations on May 25, the same day that a travel ban to the Greek islands will also be lifted.
To encourage tourism, the country will also cut sales tax to 13% from 24% on ferry, airline, and bus tickets, as well as on non-alcoholic beverages served at cafes, bars, and restaurants from June 1 until the end of October, Mitsotakis said.
Greece has suffered fewer than 170 Covid-19 deaths and has reported fewer than 3,000 cases two months into the pandemic.
The country is looking to restart its vital tourism sector, accounting for nearly 20% of the country's gross domestic product and one in four jobs, to soften the financial impact from the coronavirus.
According to the Greek Tourism Ministry, more than 33 million tourists visited the country last year.
"We will win the economy war just as we won the health battle," Mitsotakis said.