An unprecedented calm descends on the island of Santorini, as the coronavirus pandemic has either caused fear of ‘going outside’ and travelling or visitors are unable to travel due to restrictions in their respective countries.
In Fira, the queue of hundreds of tourists lining up for the cable car is missing, you don’t need to make a reservation to find a table at a restaurant and the alleys aren’t crowded with people.
It is a scene completely different from other years.
Normally the island is jam packed with hundreds and thousands of visitors.
Earlier this year Condé Nast Traveller (CNT) Middle East named Santorini as one of the most “beautiful islands on the planet”.
More than two million people flock to the Greek island of Santorini annually.
One visitor to the island Dimitris Vourvidis, who has been holidaying on the island since young, told CNN that “it is a unique opportunity for visitors to enjoy a different Santorini, calmer, more romantic. A Santorini from the past.”
“I was on the island for the first time in the mid-1980s with a group of classmates, who for the first time our parents had let us go on vacation alone. We loved it and kept going for 25 consecutive years. Santorini became our annual summer holiday. A Santorini without the hundreds of people and cars, a Santorini more peaceful and purer. A nostalgic journey in my youth,” he continued.
Katerina Vassiliadou, an architect who runs a small tourist accomodation, also noted that “we must see every difficulty as an opportunity. So even now, Santorini is an opportunity for visitors who will come for the first time to get to know it safely, without queues, without traffic jams. The prices this year are an opportunity for new customers to come to the island. To make new friends that some may have hesitated to come due to the influx of people in recent years and its prices.”
Another difference is seeing the ‘view’ without it being obstructed by cruise ships that bring hundreds of travellers to the island.
As of July 1, Greece opened to tourism following the relaxation of coronavirus-related restrictions.
All passengers arriving in Greece must fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least a day before arrival, providing information that will include their departure airport, the address where they will be staying and the expected duration of their stay in Greece, among others. The information on the form is a key element of the country’s planning for protection against the pandemic and preventing the spread of the virus.
Greece’s Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis last week stated that “So far we have done very well in restarting Greek tourism. But under no circumstances should we be complacent. The battle may have been won, but not the raging war.”
In relation to the promotional actions of the tourism ministry, Theoharis said that “the next steps of the ministry concern the promotion of Greece through advertising and joint advertising. We initially innovated with the world-class pioneering campaign ‘Greece From Home’, we are moving forward with ‘Endless Greek Summer’ and ‘Destination Greece Health First’ but also with advertising companies, tour operators, etc. Our goal is for these promotions not to stop after the period of high demand, but to continue even in winter. Our strategic goal, after all, is to extend the tourist season – if health conditions allow. A success will be to follow a 12-month tourism model.”