NAXOS, Greece (AP) – In his kitchen, Kyriaki Kapri has enough food to feed an army. Heaps of squid for frying, lemons to cut into quarters, thick potato wedges for making oregano-sprinkled fries and seafood for the famous dishes on the Greek island of Naxos.
She has done all she can to prepare for tourists at her seaside restaurant in Naxos, Gorgona – Greek for Mermaid – but customers are still a rare sight.
Greece kicked off its tourist season on Friday amid a competitive rush across the Mediterranean to attract vacationers emerging from lockouts.
“We are all vaccinated, the tables are outside and spread out, with hand sanitizer on each. We are ready. Now we wait, ”says Kapri, standing next to large display cases with fresh fish on beds of crushed ice. During a six-month lockdown, Gorgona closed for the first time in its 50-year history.
The European Union has yet to roll out its mobile phone compatible travel card system. But southern member states, even more indebted by the pandemic and heavily dependent on income from tourism, are not waiting.
Croatia has already reopened, as has Cyprus, joined by Greece on Friday where residents were allowed to leave their homes without an electronic permit for the first time in six months.
Last year, the number of visitors to Greece fell 78.2% to 7.4 million – from a record 34 million in 2019 – according to official data, with a corresponding drop in tourism income.
Greece hopes to recoup half of 2019’s visitor numbers. It has pledged to complete vaccination of its entire island population within the next six weeks and will even waive testing requirements for tourists who have received Russian-made vaccines and in China that are not approved for use in the country.
Other Mediterranean countries are also looking for an advantage.
Malta promises visitors vouchers for snorkeling and cash discounts to high-end hotel guests.
In Turkey, visitors from abroad were exempted from stay-at-home orders applicable to Turks, taking advantage of an empty Istanbul and sparsely populated beach resorts. Starting Monday, travelers from China, Britain, Australia and 13 other countries will be allowed in without even having to present a negative COVID-19 test.
Portugal is the only country in southern Europe to have so far entered Britain’s so-called green list of destinations without quarantine. Travelers to the UK have jumped on the news, according to Emma Coulthurst of vacation price comparison site TravelSupermarket.
“Week after week, if you compare all the package holiday price comparison searches through TravelSupermarket, the site saw an 865% increase in searches for package holidays to Portugal,” Coulthurst said.
In neighboring Spain, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said her government was in “constant” consultations with Britain to try to change its travel status. Some 18 million British holidaymakers visited Spain in 2019.
Italy is set to drop a five-day quarantine for travelers from the EU, Britain and Israel this weekend, but many in the hospitality industry are bracing for yet another year difficult.
“I think (tourism) will increase but very slowly. For this year, we have to accept whatever happens, ”said Elisabetta Menardi, manager of the Ca ‘Foscolo hotel residence in Venice.
A short walk from the famous Rialto Bridge, the hotel is generally full year round but is currently operating at 20% occupancy.
“Normally in January we already receive a lot of reservations for the summer. It stopped. So we don’t know what’s coming, ”Menardi said. “People make reservations and then they cancel. It’s kind of a dance. ___ Gatopoulos brought from Athens, Greece. AP staff from across southern Europe contributed.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located in the European Economic Area.