Corfu, Greece – For the past 14 years, Eleni Chrysikopoulou has raised her children selling dolls to foreigners.
His shop is right at the intersection of two highways within the town of Corfu, but that means he pays a large rent.
Last year he almost destroyed her.
The ban on COVIDs means that Corfu received only 28,000 visitors from cruise ships, up from 850,000 in 2019.
The 1.5 million visitors who arrived by air in 2019 went down by a quarter.
“Many stores are closing. I know a lot of people, people who have been in business for many years. I don’t know what happened to them. He may have returned to the countryside, ”Chrysikopoulou told Al Jazeera.
She fears that she will be forced to close the shop.
“My comfort is that … I don’t have any young children.”
In 2019, 31 million tourists came to Greece, making it the seventh most popular holiday destination in the world.
Immigrants last year fell by three quarters, as well as revenue, to $ 4.3 billion ($ 5.2bn).
With tourism contributing one fifth of the economy, the government is determined to improve operations this year.
On May 14, it became the first country in the European Union to receive a respite from the rest of the EU and a list of non-EU countries.
Instead, they must provide proof of a vaccine or a false COVID test that took 72 hours before departure.
The relaxation of the trails of the visitors has brought relief.
Museums have been opened. The time to get home runs from 9pm to half past midnight. People can now cross the borders of this world. There is no need to send a text message every time you go out. And on May 21, free movies will be back, fun that Greeks love.
But even the government acknowledges that all of this will not affect the economy until other countries allow their citizens to travel without restrictions.
Germany and the United Kingdom, which together sent 5.5 million visitors to Greece in 2019, did not do so.
Since January, Greece has pressured the EU to issue a Digital Green Pass, which would allow Europeans with vaccinations to travel more easily.
It’s got to happen. In desperation, Greece made its own way.
“We have seen that there is no leadership and we need to provide such leadership by providing a safe haven for others to adopt and consider to grow,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told Al Jazeera.
“There is a ‘Catch 22’ problem that we can easily face – we are waiting for another country to take action and they are waiting for us. As a result, by removing some of the barriers, we allow other countries to make decisions based on our choices. ”
The government hopes to see 3.6% growth this year. The Greek Commission’s experiments in Greece are excellent.
All of this is a reflection of the resume season.
Theoharis cannot try to predict. “We hope it will be a better year than last year, maybe a very good year,” he said. “We have our events if you want, but those events are dangerous.”
In Corfu, some are willing to set up a number to cure.
“This year, we expect to reach 45% of the budget for 2019. And that’s good news,” said Spyros Chalikiopoulos, president of the Travel Agency. “We hope to reach the 2019 figures by 2022.”
Experiments with vaccines promote the revitalization of tourism
The government has two powerful weapons that it did not have last year – testing and vaccination.
Greece has the fifth fastest-growing virus in the EU. And it is prioritizing the vaccination of 85 islands, including Corfu, by the end of June.
“[This] it is the most important tool in our hands to make it a safer place, which is our first issue, “said Babis Voulgaris, President of the Corfu Hotel Association.
In Paxoi, just south of Corfu, adequate animal protection has already been achieved, for 2,500 people and one-50th size of Corfu.
“We are one of the lucky islands where everyone, from 18 to 90, was vaccinated at the same time from day one. I think we are better off now than most Greeks,” said Deputy Mayor Pantelis Kouvas.
Paxoi did well to save half of his business to the peak of the epidemic last year.
Now, it has all the money in the high-end market, renting houses and houses for the wealthy Europeans.
Paxoi’s owners claim that half of their customers are tourists, which is hard to find in the tourist market.
“Customers tell us, ‘If we don’t come in May we will be able to do it in September or October’,” said Stefanos Fougaros, who started waiting for tables at a young age and at the age of 41, owning a home and car business.
“We worked hard and we still won [last year], but it was not as bad as some had. ”
Corfu is also moving slowly.
The Voulgaris family owns a five-star hotel and is building another.
“Half of the high-end hotels have been built in the last 15 years, so there is a trend towards better tourism. That is our goal now, ”said Halikiopoulos.
The search for value markets will take Corfu away from Europe, he said.
“We have come to change things. We rely on the UK market for 40% of our tourism. We are trying to attract new markets such as China, UAE, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. We hope this is the future. ”
So far the government has spent 40 billion euros ($ 48bn) to prevent businesses from operating under the epidemic.
With government debt almost double the gross domestic product (GDP), it is not what it wants to do again.