When Greece welcomes international tourists back next month, outdoor restaurants and cafes — the kind that defines a perfect Greek vacation — will be open.
The easing of restrictions comes after Greece lifted quarantine requirements for visitors from several countries on April 19, including the United States, but lockdown measures remained in place. Next month, tourists who are vaccinated, have tested negative for COVID-19, or who have coronavirus antibodies will be allowed to enter the Mediterranean country.
Outdoor restaurants and dining areas will be able to open on May 3 — just after the Orthodox Easter holiday on May 2 — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Tourism services will reopen on May 15, the same day a ban on travel between different regions of the country is lifted.
Looking ahead, Mitsotakis urges caution for the holiday to hopefully help contribute to a more relaxed summer season.
"Our goal is to have a safe Easter and a free summer. But one cannot undermine the other," Mitsotakis said. "That's why we should not travel at Easter. Athens and other cities still have many COVID cases. Mass movement carries the risk of spreading the virus everywhere."
Beyond just Greece, the European Union has floated the idea of a "digital green" passport, which would allow people within the EU to travel freely if they, say, were vaccinated or had proof of a negative test. This week, France became the first country in the EU to start testing a digital health certificate for travel purposes.
Tourism is a big part of the economy in Greece and, like much of the world, took a hard hit in 2020. Income from tourism last year dropped by more than 75% compared to 2019, the AP reported.
"Most of our tourism comes within the EU so it is very, very important to ensure that for travelers within the EU that they will be able to travel as easily as possible and without any additional restrictions," Mitsotakis told CNN last month. "So we essentially intend to replicate this arrangement with other countries that are not members of the EU and I expect this… to be the standard tool that we will use in order to facilitate travel."
Several cruise lines have planned Greek sailings this summer, taking advantage of the easing restrictions (and perfect weather), including Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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