In something that sounds a little bit reminiscent of last year, Greece is talking about opening up for summer tourists and they do have a plan. This is great news to the millions who had missed out last year and many of whom still have vouchers/certificates for stays here this year. But, even with this good news for travelers, there are questions that still exist.
Greece Opening for Summer Tourism – 2021 Edition
The Tourism Minister, Harry Theocharis, spoke at the virtual ITB Berlin trade show yesterday, doing so from the Acropolis Museum in Athens. He confirmed what we have written about many times before – that tourists will be welcome and vaccines will not be mandatory. The target date is May 14.
Instead, they are working on a three-pronged approach to how visitors can enter Greece. If they are vaccinated, they can enter. They can also enter with proof of antibodies as well as a negative Covid-19 test before entry.
Once they do arrive in Greece, all tourists will still be subject to random testing, as happens now. In actuality, the testing is not entirely random right now as it is based on what your PLF (Passenger Locator Form) says about your origination but still “random.”
They plan to open the doors in May after they have gotten a look at how well things are going with their health protocols when Israelis and others start to enter as soon as April. Greece is prioritizing those who get the vaccine here in Greece with those working in the hospitality part of the economy to get the vaccine after the vulnerable have received it. Currently, they are still vaccinating those over 60 (as well as medical workers). In this way, those that have the most contact with the tourists will have been vaccinated.
Questions Remain About Greece’s Opening
Unfortunately, there are many who listened to the promises of a Greek opening last summer but found that it never happened. As such, there may be those, especially in America, that are hesitant to start booking tickets to Greece this summer, whether they have the vaccine or not.
This is due partly to the fact that there are many questions that still need to be answered by Greece.
One of the big things is a vaccination passport. Those in the US receive a vaccination card that are not that long-lasting (one friend had his eaten by his little child!). But, there is no global pass yet that allows it to be recognized by all countries. Greece is pushing hard for such a pass in the EU and has formed an agreement with Israel for their vaccinated travelers to visit Greece.
But, it will remain to be seen what kind of confirmation Greece will look for with the vaccination card/passport. With so many different pieces of paper existing, Greece will likely want something that is more official. What will that look like?
Furthermore, what about children? If a family is traveling to Greece from the US, chances are pretty good that the parents will have received the vaccine but also good that the children may not have yet. Greece currently requires negative tests for all those 10 and older. Will they also exempt children under 10 from needing a vaccination to enter with their parents in the vaccinated line?
Antibodies for Travelers
If a person has had Covid-19 (as I have), their body builds up antibodies as a result. In some places, like Israel, vaccines are not even offered to those who have had Covid-19 due to those antibodies existing. Greece is keeping to their promise that they will not require travelers be vaccinated before coming to Greece but instead offer antibodies proof as one alternative.
The problem with this is that even in Greece right now, antibodies tests are not even working as proof to health and medical officials. Even though we have negative tests (and prior positive tests) as well as antibodies test showing the high number of antibodies in our bodies, we are still required to get tested before going into a hospital. They say that the antibodies tests really do not show anything to them and they need fresh negative tests.
So, will the country of Greece accept antibodies test from travelers coming into Greece? They say they will but how far back will the tests need to go? What other proofs will they need along with that, such as a positive test to show when it was that they did have the coronavirus? Will they require a specific antibodies test and within what timeframe of travel?
Currently, Greece requires the more expensive RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 purposes. These are different from the antigen and rapid tests and they can take several days to yield a negative result. Since Greece requires these tests to have been taken 72 hours before arrival into Greece, it can really be a fight with the clock.
Will Greece continue to require RT-PCR tests or an easier test? Will they make it 72 hours before departure, like many countries currently do for entry?
Greece Opening But the EU Doesn’t
Greece has already caught some heat from fellow EU member nations for making deals with countries outside of the Schengen Zone to welcome those travelers, even though the EU does not allow them to enter. Greece is making it clear they are ok going alone in this and this would likely include for American travelers.
I fully expect new protocols to be introduced throughout the Schengen Zone to allow Americans to enter sometime this summer. But, in the meantime, will Greece jump ahead and open their own doors to Americans before the Schengen Zone does?
If they do, this will mean that Americans may not be able to travel to Greece via other EU countries. That means no Lufthansa, Austrian, SWISS, etc. It would make the non-stop flights from the US to Greece very desirable (see that list here). But, another airline that would be popular is currently not allowed to enter – Turkish Airlines. They have been shut out of Greece for many months now so do not book with them just yet! Not only are they not yet cleared to fly to Greece but they are also horrible to get refunds from (we have been trying for almost a year now).
Questions from within Greece
Then we come to the part of the statement about vaccinating hospitality workers in Greece. This will likely make workers in other sectors unhappy if these workers (normally younger people) are able to jump the age line that is currently the order for the jabs.
For another thing, there are a ton of seasonal workers that are employed in this sector, some will not even be hired until May or June – or later, depending on how the season shapes up. This means that Greece will likely not be able to make any kind of promise that the hospitality workers at all hotels and resorts are vaccinated, in case some visitors are concerned with that (which they really should not be if they are deciding to travel internationally).
Greece is still saying they will be open for tourists this summer. But, they said that last year as well. For sure, their health protocols have been strengthened and they are certainly ready to welcome international visitors. But, there are also questions that need to be answered before I would advise people start booking non-refundable travel to the beautiful country of Greece.
I absolutely believe Greece will open this summer. I am following along with the stories and people that are in the know and hopefully I can update with some answers shortly. In the meantime, I can say that booking award flights on the non-stops to Greece from the US may not be that bad of an idea! 🙂