Israel, Greece talk tourism as countries emerge from pandemic relatively unscathed

The Greek tourism minister appeared on Israeli television to tell viewers he hoped to open Greece for visitors in July.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Israeli and Greek foreign ministers held a telephone conference this week to discuss creating a regional safety zone that would allow them to jump start their tourist industries this summer.

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias said their talks “discussed the corona outbreak and further enhancing economic relations.”

Officials from Israel, Greece and Cyprus are exploring the possibility of creating a “triple zone of safe countries” that will allow flights between the three nations, Kan Radio reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously said Israel wants to get air travel partially operating by mid-June, and Alexis Patelis, economic adviser to the Greek prime minister, said his “country’s success in limiting the number of cases could make it attractive to foreign tourists concerned about their health.”

Israel is among a group of seven countries that are working together in an effort to restore business ties and reinvigorate tourism, including Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece.

On Monday, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis was interviewed on Israel’s Channel 12 news and described how his country, whose economy is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, is taking steps to allow tourists to come back starting in July. Last year, 33 million tourists added 18 billion Euros to the Greek economy.

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“Every medical expert tells us that they expect things to be better by July,” Theoharis said. “We will be there ready with agreements in order to allow the [tourist] season not to be lost.”

“If Europe doesn’t make [a] comprehensive solution we will have to take the bilateral route,” he said, noting he’d already talked with his “very good friend” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and the two wanted to ensure their tourists could travel safely.

“The word for fun, “keyf,” is the same in Greek and Hebrew,” he said.

“Greece, Israel and Cyprus can do more together,” Dr. George Tzogopoulos, who heads the Israel-Hellenic Forum wrote on the Greek news website Ekathimerini. He said the three countries are facing similar economic consequences in tourism and the development of a joint rescue plan would help.

“In a period of instability, pillars of stability such as the trilateral bloc of Greece, Israel and Cyprus matter more,” Tzogopoulos said.

Israel’s shuttered tourism industry appealed to the Health Ministry to help restart tourism.

“Every day that goes by without clear procedures crushes the incoming tourism industry,”the organization tweeted, saying tourist operators plan months in advance and the industry could not be rehabilitated until procedures and measures were in place.