Greece's 497 'Blue Flag' beaches

With the sand between your toes and the sun soaking through your pores, it’s simple- life is better at a beach in Greece.

Last month, Greece was ranked second in the world for the Blue Flag quality award list of beaches, marinas and sustainable tourism boats.

With 497 award-winning beaches, 14 marinas and 6 sustainable tourism boats, Greece ranked second – after Spain in first place – among 47 countries.

The announcement of the results was made public by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN). It should be noted that this year, amongst all the countries participating in the program, Greece made up 13% of the total number of beaches awarded by the program this year.

Like last year, most of Greece’s Blue Flags (94), went to beaches in Halkidiki, northern Greece.

“The Blue Flag program has a special significance for Greek tourism,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said. “Apart from confirming the high quality services offered in Greece’s beaches, marinas and tourism boats, this year, Blue Flags symbolise our desire and willingness to return to normality,” he added.

The Blue Flag Program is a world-renowned eco-label trusted by millions around the globe and is operated under the auspices of the Foundation for Environmental Education, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. In order to qualify for this prestigious award, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained. Through close collaboration with their members, the Foundation for Environmental Education works to ensure the programme’s expansion, and that the unrivalled standards of the Blue Flag are maintained internationally.

Furthermore, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) sees Greece’s ranking as an additional way to promote Greece: “With the Blue Flag recognition, this year, Greek tourism can offer an excellent combination of nature and high-quality services to Greek citizens and international travellers: Natural beauty, variety of locations, health and environmental safety in Greek seas and beaches. This is the image that the GNTO wishes to promote.”

On Saturday during a visit to Santorini, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer with priority to health safety.

“When the summer tourist season comes full circle,” said Mitsotakis, “we will be able to say that we did not just manage the first wave of the pandemic in an exemplary way, but that we also set the bar very high on how we can reopen tourism safely – above all else,” he exclaimed.

When asked if opening the country to visitors might jeopardise the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Mitsotakis said that “there is no risk-free approach…we are doing the best we can” and emphasised that the economy will operate under “very robust guidelines” enforcing social distancing and other measures, such as mandatory wearing of masks in transport as well as by all catering personnel.

“I believe the worst (of the pandemic) is over and I don’t think a full lockdown will be necessary…in case of a localised outbreak, we have the medical and civil protection infrastructure in place to tackle it safely and efficiently,” Mitsotakis said.

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