News World Greece is inviting tourists to visit. And Australia is on the exclusive guest list

Greece is inviting tourists to visit. And Australia is on the exclusive guest list

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As temperatures drop across much of Australia, a holiday in the sunny Greek islands sounds increasingly tempting.

And unlike the most countries, which have strict travel bans, the European nation’s doors will soon be wide open.

After keeping coronavirus cases low, the Greek government is eager to save its troubled economy by inviting tourists from 29 countries to visit – and Australia is on the guest list.

From June 15, travellers from those countries can go to Greece without having to undergo mandatory quarantine, although there will be random COVID-19 testing of travellers.

But the Australian government is yet to accept the offer, maintaining a strict ban on international tourism.

Exemptions have been granted on compassionate grounds or for essential work, but if you’re seeking a holiday then your dreams of drinking ouzo in Santorini will have to wait.

Resistance is coming from European countries, too.

Germany and Denmark have warned people to reconsider – or not travel at all – to Greece over fears of the coronavirus.

Why the rush?

Greece is desperate for some quick cash.

Worldwide lockdowns have shattered travel and tourism industries around the world. The effects have been particularly tough for Greece, where tourism accounts for more than 20 per cent of its GDP.

Last year, more than 32 million tourists flocked to enjoy the country’s offerings, injecting about $30 billion into the economy.

Yet even before the coronavirus pandemic, the Greek economy was struggling.

In 2015, Greece suffered the longest recession of any advanced capitalist economy to date, worse than the US Great Depression.

Since then, unemployment rates have remained high and other economic problems have persisted, such as tax evasion, corruption and low global competitiveness.

Without a huge boost in international travel, Greece’s economy is expected to shrink between 5 and 10 per cent as a result of the coronavirus.

Is it safe?

Unlike New Zealand, which has eliminated COVID-19, Greece still has some active cases.

Overall, the country has done a remarkable job of containing the virus.

As of Thursday, the country had 3068 coronavirus cases and 183 deaths.

These figures are a stark contrast to other European countries, such as Italy or Spain, where the virus spread so quickly and aggressively that morgues became overwhelmed with dead bodies.

A major reason Greece has fared so well is due to the government’s early introduction of lockdown restrictions.

In early March, despite only a handful of coronavirus cases in the country, Athens introduced a full nationwide lockdown.

Now, the government is moving to take advantage of its low case numbers by lifting restrictions and reopening businesses.

The Acropolis, an ancient citadel and popular tourist destination, reopened in early May.

Bars and restaurants have also reopened, and from next week, hotels will restart operations and airlines will gradually resume international flights.