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Greece Joins Mediterranean Race to Win back Tourists

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Greece began its tourism season Friday amid intense competition across the Mediterranean to entice vacationers newly free of lockdowns.

The European Union has yet to roll out its cell phone-friendly travel pass system. But southern member-states, driven deeper into debt by the pandemic and highly dependent on tourism revenues, are not waiting.

Croatia has already reopened, as has Cyprus, joined Friday by Greece where residents were allowed to leave home without an electronic permit for the first time in six months.

Greece is hoping to claw back half the 2019 visitor level. It’s vowed to finish vaccinating its entire island population over the next six weeks and will even waive test requirements for tourists who have received vaccines made in Russia and China that are not approved for use domestically.

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Other Mediterranean countries are also looking for an edge.

Portugal is the only southern European country to so far make Britain’s so-called Green List of quarantine-free destinations. Travellers in the UK pounced on the news, according to Emma Coulthurst from holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket.

In neighbouring Spain, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said her government was in “constant” consultations with Britain to upgrade its travel status. Some 18 million U.K. holidaymakers travelled to Spain in 2019.

Last year, the number of visitors to Greece plummeted by 78.2% to 7.4 million — from a record 34 million in 2019 — according to official data, with a corresponding drop in tourism revenues.

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