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© Maria Theofanopoulou

VAT, a special municipal tax, a property cap and rental time limits are among the actions Greece’s tourism stakeholders are demanding from the government in an attempt to regulate Airbnb-style activities which, they say, are distorting healthy market competition.

The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), representing the majority of Greece’s tourism enterprises, is once again calling on the government to take immediate action and amend the law which covers short-term rental operations in order to ensure fair play and protect tax-paying businesses.

In this direction SETE tabled proposals this week which include imposing value added tax, a municipal tax, withholding a tax for professional activity in short-term leasing, setting a cap on properties that can be leased by any one owner, setting a time limit for property rentals based on area which should not exceed 90 days per year and for islands with fewer than 10,000 residents 60 days.

Additionally, properties leased out as Airbnbs cannot offer other services. In the case of additional services provided, then the property must be listed as a tourist accommodation facility and as such must hold special certification and legal documentation. Violators should be fined 10,000 euros and double the fee for repeat violations. The same should apply to apartment blocks which operate in full as short-term rentals. 

SETE also recommends that a 5 percent tax on the rental rate be imposed – to be paid by the customer – which should be collected by the short-term rental platform.

The confederation went on to stress the need for regular inspections by a mixed team of tax and tourism ministry officials and suggests fines for violations.

“It goes without saying that SETE supports new investments as long as these are strictly subject to the existing legal framework. Any attempt at circumvention which distorts competition will find us on the opposite end. The state should make use of all its control mechanisms,” said SETE President Yiannis Retsos late last month on the news of a new Airbnb-style operation in the center of Athens that has included services in its offerings.

SETE President Yiannis Retsos.

Addressing the press for the first time in person after the of outbreak of Covid-19 on Monday, Retsos went on to add that companies are taking advantage of “loopholes” in the current law which allow the establishment of Airbnb-style ‘complexes’ offering dozens of apartments for short-term rental while at the same time providing additional hospitality services, including F&B services, wellness amenities and recreational activities.

“Instead of operating as hotels, they choose the short-term rental market… This leads to lost revenue from VAT for the Greek state and unfair competition for hotels,” he said.

In February, Greek hoteliers said they would be taking legal action against short-term rental companies which advertise and operate as hotels.

“We cannot continue to preserve a grey zone when it comes to short-term rentals whereby entrepreneurs acquire or lease entire blocks of apartments, transform them into rooms for rent, and by chance there is always a cafeteria on the ground floor serving breakfast; they advertise themselves as hotels on booking platforms online without having any such permit,” said Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) President Alexandros Vassilikos.

Echoing Vassilikos, the Peloponnese Tourism Organization (PTO) also called on the government to take immediate action and implement controls on Airbnb-style tourist rentals.

STAMA: ‘The needs of travelers are changing’

Greece’s Short-Term Accommodation Managers Association (STAMA) issued a statement on Wednesday in response to the proposals in which it says that SETE is in effect “requesting that hundreds of Greek companies (property managers) operating under a legal tax framework stop, that thousands of owners across the country who are taxed lose their additional income, and that any regional activities in short-term leasing such as construction, renovations, equipment, technology companies, cooperating companies from abroad stop”. 

In its statement, STAMA goes on to add that “we need to understand that the tourism product is changing as are the needs of travelers and no one can prevent the free movement of visitors worldwide and their right to choose the way they travel and where they stay.”

Initially as a way for crisis-hit Greeks to make a living, the last decade, Airbnb activities in Greece have soared with whole neighborhoods in Athens evolving into short-term rental areas. The once buzzing Athens neighborhood of Psyrri is a case in point, coming back to life as more and more buyers invest in short-term rentals, boutique hotels and accommodation facilities there.

Indicatively, bookings for Airbnbs across the country this summer are up by 232 percent placing Greece in the lead in Europe in terms of overall booking performance.

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Photo source: Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA)

Photo source: Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA)

The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Tuesday issued an update to the Covid-19 aviation directive (NOTAM) that includes the rules that passengers must follow when traveling on domestic flights to all destinations in Greece.

The update to the NOTAM concerns the requirement for passengers traveling with Covid-19 vaccination and recovery certificates to board domestic flights.

What’s new

According to the updated NOTAM, vaccinated travelers must now carry a vaccination certificate valid for nine months (up from seven months) since full vaccination for Covid-19. It is noted that there is no validity limit for travelers who have received the booster dose.

The NOTAm also notes that people that have recovered from Covid-19 must carry a recovery certificate valid for 6 months (up from three months) after its issue date.

It is reminded that people can fly domestic in Greece also if they hold a negative PCR/rapid antigen test result.

The updated Covid-19 aviation directive is part of the Greek government’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country.

Details on the rules to board domestic flights in Greece follow below.

Covid documents needed to board domestic flights

Photo source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis

Residents and foreign visitors in Greece are allowed to travel on domestic flights only if they have one of the following:

1) a vaccination certificate valid for nine months (270 days) since full vaccination for Covid-19, and without validity limit for travelers who have received the booster dose.
Greeks can issue their vaccination certificates here.
Foreigners are obliged to have a vaccination certificate in one of the following languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Russian. The vaccination certificate must be issued by a public authority, include the travelers’ name, the type of vaccine administered and the number of doses.
Alternatively, travelers may present, in digital or printed form, an EU Digital COVID Certificate (or a similar certificate from a non-EU country) as proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19 or has a negative test result or recovered from the coronavirus.

2) a recovery certificate valid for 6 months (180 days) after its issue date. The certificate must be issued by a public authority or a certified laboratory in one of the following languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish or Russian.

3) a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before travel or negative rapid antigen test performed within 48 hours before travel.
Greeks can issue their test result here.
Foreigners must have a negative test in one of the following languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Russian.
Negative test results can be in print or electronic form.

Minors

Passengers aged 4 to 17 can present a negative self-test result (either in print or electronic form) taken at least 24 hours before travel, to board a flight.
The self-test declaration form can be accessed here. Travelers will have to print it out, write their negative test result, sign it and then present it when requested at the airport along with identification (passport).
Travelers can also present their negative test result in digital form (TaxisNet codes and AMKA social security number are necessary).

Masks are mandatory

Photo source: European Parliament / © H_Ko/AdobeStock

Photo source: European Parliament / © H_Ko/AdobeStock

At the arrival and departure areas inside airports, as well as during all domestic and international flights, staff and passengers are required to wear a face mask at all times.

Passengers that do not wear masks will not be allowed to board airplanes to travel.

Moreover, passengers are required to comply with the instructions of the airport or airline staff who are responsible for supervision, crowd management and passenger assistance, in order to maintain the necessary distances and to ensure safe boarding/disembarkation to avoid overcrowding.

The compulsory travel documents passengers must have with them are checked by airline staff. According to the HCAA, airline staff is obliged to ascertain that travelers have all the necessary documentation before they board flight in Greece.

Travelers are advised to also contact their travel agent or airline to confirm the requirements before their trip. Those in need of information regarding specific details are recommended to contact their embassy or the General Secretariat for Civil Protection.

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Ferry arrivals to the Cyclades islands showed signs of recovery during the third quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in both 2020 and 2019 – prior to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic – according to data by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

Covering the main summer months (July, August and September), Q3 is usually Greece’s strongest in terms of tourism arrivals and revenues.

Data analysis shows that many of the popular Cyclades islands managed to cover some of the lost ground between 2019 – 2021 while others – such as Serifos and Sifnos – exceeded 2019 levels with arrivals increasing during July-September 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 and 2019.

Paros ranked first in terms of arrivals (560,479),  followed by Santorini (368,027) in second place and Mykonos (310,969) in third.

Milos (147,513 arrivals) recorded the largest increase in 2021 compared to 2019.

On the other hand, Andros, Ios, Naxos and Syros saw arrivals decrease by approximately 20,000 visitors during the third quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, the islands of Santorini, Paros, Mykonos and Milos saw arrival numbers drop further due to the – usually – longer summer tourism season.

Photo source: European Commission / Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis

Photo source: European Commission / Photographer: Yorgos Karahalis

ELSTAT’s data for ferry arrivals in Q3, 2021, are as follows:

Amorgos: 42,986 arrivals, up from 18,394 in 2020 and 40,105 in 2019
Andros: 128,201 arrivals, up from 96,498 in 2020 and down from 149,032 in 2019
Antiparos: 232,564 arrivals, up from 133,030 in 2020 and down from 236,326 in 2019
Thira (Santorini): 368,027 arrivals, up from 165,654 in 2020 and down from 575,047 in 2019
Ios: 76,225 arrivals, up from 33,415 in 2020 and down from 96,403 in 2019
Kythnos: 63,350 arrivals, up from 48,455 in 2020 and 56,851 in 2019
Milos: 147,513 arrivals, up from 85,453 in 2020 and 140,030 in 2019
Mykonos: 310,969 arrivals, up from 146,323 in 2020 and down from 438,522 in 2019
Naxos: 306,805 arrivals, up from 158,016 in 2020 and down from 324,534 in 2019
Paros: 560,479 arrivals, up from 303,699 in 2020 and down from 613,305 in 2019
Serifos: 60,036 arrivals, up from 40,659 in 2020 and 54,238 in 2019
Sifnos: 89,186 arrivals, up from 55,497 in 2020 and 87,889 in 2019
Syros: 151,357 arrivals, up from 101,440 in 2020 and down from 173,630 in 2019
Tinos: 223,629 arrivals, up from 134,049 in 2020 and down from 277,551 in 2019.

Passenger traffic at Greek ports up by 34% in Q3, 2021

Source: ELSTAT

Overall, total passenger traffic at Greek ports in the 3rd quarter of 2021 increased by 34.3 percent compared to the same period in 2020, ELSTAT said.

The number of domestic passengers reached 13,937,997, and international passengers 636,065.

Source: ELSTAT

The total movements of goods in Greek ports in the third quarter of 2021 increased by 0.2 percent compared to the third quarter 2020.

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Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias. Photo source: Greek Tourism Ministry

Greece is ready to welcome visitors as the tourism season kicks off earlier thanks to ongoing efforts by the ministry and industry stakeholders, said Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias during the naming ceremony of a TUI fly aircraft on Crete on Monday.

Speaking during the event held at the Nikos Kazantzakis Airport, Kikilias reiterated the ministry’s goals for the year ahead which include extending the tourism season, expanding destinations, and moving ahead with the implementation of a sustainable tourism model.

Global tour operator TUI named one of its Boeing 737-8 aircraft “Heraklion”, after the capital of Crete, where the group does business.

Oliver Lackmann, Chief Flight Operations Officer TUI Airline, with godmother Irini Vasiliou, and the TUI fly crew of the new Boeing 737-8 on Crete. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

Oliver Lackmann, Chief Flight Operations Officer TUI Airline, with godmother Irini Vasiliou, and the TUI fly crew of the new Boeing 737-8 on Crete. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

“There is a positive trend in demand at the moment and that is why we’ve brought the first arrivals four weeks earlier,” said Managing Director TUI Fly Oliver Lackmann. He added that TUI Group is planning on bringing about 3 million visitors to Greece and that it had added 62 new flights for April to Crete, Rhodes and Kos.

In total TUI this year expects to operate some 40,000 flights to 19 Greek airports with 9,000 from European destinations from and to Crete alone.

The traditional water arch welcomed the new Boeing 737-8 of TUI fly at Heraklion airport. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

The traditional water arch welcomed the new Boeing 737-8 of TUI fly at Heraklion airport. Photo source: TUI (© Gregorschläger)

Kikilas called on tourism stakeholders – hoteliers, travel agents, airlines and travel agencies – to make a coordinated, organized and strong effort every day, so that more visitors come to Greece.

The minister expressed his optimism about welcoming visitors earlier than ever before, adding that the goal in 2022 will be to attract “more travelers, more higher-income visitors, who respect customs and culture, love Greece and will come again and again, thus supporting the hundreds of thousands of people active in tourism”. 

On Sunday, also in Heraklion, Crete, Kikilias and TUI Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier marked the start of the homeporting season on TUI Cruises’ “Mein Schiff 5”. With 1,650 guests on board, the cruise ship departed the port of Heraklion for a cruise to the Greek islands.

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Santorini island, Greece. Photo source: @Aegean Islands

One in four travelers chose to holiday on one of the South Aegean islands placing the region in the lead in terms of Greece’s arrivals, overnight stays and revenues in 2021, said Regional Governor Giorgos Hatzimarkos recently.

Citing Bank of Greece data, Hatzimarkos said the region surpassed by 30 percent the other regions with regard to tourist spending accounting for one-third of overall revenues.

The South Aegean, which includes such popular islands as Karpathos, Milos, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, also outdid other regions in terms of spending per visit and overnight expenditure – stronger by 13.2 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively.

According to Hatzimarkos, the South Aegean Region was the most popular destination accounting for the most visits overall compared to the country’s other regions and in the lead in terms of overnight stays.

South Aegean Region Governor George Hatzimarkos.

South Aegean Governor George Hatzimarkos

“The Bank of Greece results confirm what we experienced during the summer of 2021, when, with lots of work, seriousness, responsibility and cooperation, we conquered the highest and most difficult peak of Greek tourism,” said Hatzimarkos, adding that it was the result of a “regional tourism policy formulated and implemented in cooperation with all productive forces”.

“Accounting for one-third of total travel receipts and a quarter of visits to Greece, the South Aegean region spearheaded the country’s tourism recovery effort, supporting the national effort in the best possible manner,” he said.  

“We are entering 2022 with the impetus given to us by our success… building, planning and working for our next wins,” he concluded.

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Photo source: @Cruise Lines International Association

Global cruise and tourism associations welcomed the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it had dropped all guidance for cruise travel.

After two years of warnings against cruise travel, the CDC last week updated its previous “Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice”, which had sparked the angered reaction of the industry late last year.

In December the CDC had raised its Covid-19 warning level for cruise travel to high-risk 4 advising against cruising even for those who have been vaccinated.

Commenting on the announcement Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said: “From the onset of the pandemic, CLIA’s cruise line members have prioritized the health and safety of their guests, crew, and the communities they visit and are sailing today with health measures in place that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”

It went on to add that the “decision by the US CDC to remove the travel health notice for cruising recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships”.

Photo Source: @CLIA

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO Julia Simpson said “the decision by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to remove the travel health notice for cruising is well-deserved recognition that the industry has been sailing millions of travelers for many months with highly effective protocols that make cruising among the world’s safest forms of socializing and travel.”

Simpson went on to add that CDC’s decision will “help level the playing field between cruise and land-based vacation options” for the first time since March 2020 and that it was good news for the extensive network of suppliers, many of whom are small businesses, that depend on cruise for their success.

Meanwhile, speaking to media, CDC Spokesperson Dave Daigle said travelers were advised to make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, “much like they do in all other travel settings”.

The CDC also recommends travelers update their Covid vaccination before boarding a cruise ship.

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The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA), on Sunday announced the extension of its Covid-19 aviation directives (NOTAMs) that include the rules travelers arriving in Greece on international flights must follow.

The extended rules will be in place until April 11 (the rules will be evaluated after one week).

The Covid-19 aviation directives issued by the HCAA, are part of the Greek government’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country.

Following are Greece’s entry rules in detail.

Travel rules for international arrivals

Travel and COVID-19 coronavirus in Greece, Europe. COVID mark in tourist passport on map with Athens. Tourism hit by corona virus. Medical test at border control due to coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Shutterstock

EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC) holders

There are no additional restrictions (such as the “Covid-19 testing before travel” requirement for the vaccinated) for European Union Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC) holders coming from:

– the EU and Schengen zone countries
– the following 35 non-EU countries and territories that have joined the EUDCC system: San Marino, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, the Vatican, Northern Macedonia, Georgia, Switzerland, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lebanon, Morocco, Montenegro, Moldova, Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, Ukraine, Uruguay, Panama, Cape Verde, Serbia, Singapore, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Tunisia, Benin, Jordan, Faroe Islands and Chinese Taipei.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate must include information on one of the following:

1) a vaccination certificate valid for nine months since full vaccination for Covid-19, and without validity limit for travelers who have received the booster dose

2) a recovery certificate valid for 180 days after its issue date

3) a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test performed within 24 hours before travel.

The rule is also in force for children aged 5 and over.

Non-EUDCC holders: Mandatory testing before entering the country

All other inbound travelers to Greece that do not have an EUDCC (including children over 5 years old) and regardless of their Covid vaccination status must present a negative PCR test result (performed within 72 hours before travel) or a rapid antigen test result (performed within 24 hours before travel) upon arrival.

Travelers from US, Canada & Australia

Vaccinated travelers entering Greece from the United States of America, Canada and Australia are exempt from additional restrictions upon arrival provided they have one of the following:

1) a vaccination certificate valid for nine months since full vaccination for Covid-19, and without validity limit for travelers who have received the booster dose

2) a recovery certificate valid for 180 days after its issue date

3) a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test performed within 24 hours before travel.

Random rapid testing on arrival

All travelers entering Greece, regardless if they are a holder of the EU Digital Covid Certificate, may be subject to random COVID-19 rapid testing at the airport.

If a passenger is selected for a rapid test and is positive for the coronavirus then he/she must quarantine for a total of five days at home or in a temporary facility as indicated by Greek authorities. The isolation period begins the next day, after diagnosed positive for Covid-19.

The mandatory quarantine can end after five days as long as passengers have no symptoms or their symptoms have subsided (no fever for the last 24 hours without the use of antipyretics). Self-isolation is extended in case fever persists and until it subsides. These passengers are required to wear only a high filtering respirator mask (FFP2 or N95) or a double mask (surgical and fabric) for at least another five days after the end of the self-isolation period.

Wearing a mask is mandatory

At the arrival and departure areas inside airports, as well as during all domestic and international flights, staff and passengers are required to wear a face mask at all times.

Passengers are also required to comply with instructions of airport and airline staff responsible for supervising, crowd management and passenger assistance, in order to maintain the necessary distances and to ensure safe boarding/disembarkation to avoid overcrowding.

The compulsory travel documents passengers must have with them are checked by airline staff. According to the HCAA, airline staff is obliged to ascertain that travelers have all the necessary documentation before they board flight to Greece. In the case of violation, the airline will have to to repatriate the passenger at its own expense.

The Greek government has detailed information on a dedicated website with the entry rules to Greece. The website includes frequently asked questions.

Travelers are advised to contact their travel agent or airline to confirm the requirements before their trip. Those in need of specific details on the travel rules for passengers of international flights are advised to contact their embassy or the General Secretariat for Civil Protection.

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Vigla Hotel, Amorgos

The Vigla Hotel on the Greek island of Amorgos has announced that it will reopen its doors and welcome guests on April 10.

Located in the village of Tholaria on the north part of the island, Vigla Hotel offers high quality services and authentic hospitality in its recently renovated rooms, as well as stunning views of the Aegiali bay.

“We know that now, more than ever, travelers are looking for carefree safe holidays. We are here to make it happen,” Vigla Hotel Managing Director Despina Giannakopoulou said.

The village of Tholaria and the bay of Aegiali on Amorgos.

The hotel has maintained all its safety-conscious measures to ensure maximum safety for its guests and employees against the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

For example, the hotel offers disinfectant dispensers for guests in all rooms and public areas as well as contactless procedures such as online check in and digitalized menus supported by QR code or special links.

Photo source: Vigla Hotel

Meanwhile, Vigla Hotel provides its guests with the opportunity to experience new activities via the Dream Blue, its specialized travel agency promoting the beauties of Amorgos.

“Aiming to make nature-based physical activity accessible to all, we propose hiking routes and road trips to the amazing nature of Amorgos with our expert guides. In addition, we offer a number of indoor activities such as cooking and dance lessons,” Giannakopoulou said. More information is available on the website of Dream Blue here.

To celebrate its opening, Vigla Hotel has launched a special campaign with an exclusive offer of 15 percent discount for long stays.

In addition, the hotel continues last year’s #be_a_traveller_again offer with a 10 percent discount.

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Greek health authorities said this week that Covid-19 measures would remain as is through to the end of the month and that the possibility of a fourth booster shot for the whole population was under consideration.

Infectious disease expert Vana Papaevangelou said the country’s Covid committee had decided against lifting any more measures until the end of the month and after Orthodox Easter.

However, despite ruling out the need for a fourth vaccination against the virus last week, Papaevangelou said on Thursday that the committee had “begun to discuss the 4th dose. “We will be in line with the rest of Europe, but in the autumn, we will probably need a new dose for everyone”, she said. “It still not time to forget about Covid,” she added. 

The Greek National Public Health Organization (EODY) reported 21,099 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and 51 new deaths.

Papaevangelou went on to add that health experts were concerned about the average age of new incidents which had dropped to 41 years, adding that on the positive side, cases in children under 12 remained steady. She added that in the last week there had been a 15 percent rise in hospitalizations due to Covid.

On her part, Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga said pressure was growing “considerably” on the public health system with more than 500 hospitalizations a day due to Covid-19. 

She added there was great demand for antiviral drugs for Covid with more than 700 applications per day.

Health Minister: Government soon to present framework for gradual lifting of measures

Speaking to SKAI on Friday, Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris informed that the government is the coming days will present a framework for the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

“This is so that as summer approaches, the country will be closer to normalcy,” he said, adding that measures will most likely be lifted in May.

The health minister clarified that the vaccination or recovery certificate will not be scrapped. However, the government is considering to partially abolish it as a condition to access indoor areas (restaurants, cafes, bars) during the summer months.

Regarding the use of face masks indoors, Plevris said it is a “relatively mild measure” that will not be lifted immediately.

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The Greek National Tourism Organization’s (GNTO) branch in Scandinavia has been named Norway’s Best Foreign Tourism Office for 2021 at the annual Grand Travel Awards (GTA).

The awards are organized for the last 25 years by the Norwegian and Swedish editions of Travel News, a leading travel magazine in Scandinavia.

Travel News recently presented GNTO and all the winners in its online edition.

“Greece is one of the best tourism destinations for the Scandinavians,” the director of the GNTO service in Scandinavia Pavlos Mourmas said.

He also referred to Greece’s successful handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

“We tried to meet the needs of people and inspire them by publishing new travel stories through our advertising campaigns ‘Greece from Home’ in 2020; ‘All you want is Greece’ and ‘Greece does have a winter’ in 2021,” he added.

After two years of absence due to the pandemic, the GTA awards ceremony will take place in Sweden on April 26.

The awards will be handed over to the winners by Travel News CEO David Kurtz.

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