Greece Un-Travel Update. Subject to Change.
Things may be on the quiet side—that's why they call it a lockdown—but that doesn't mean they aren't wild. In fact, with the possible exception of the interruption of the Second World War, there hasn't ever been as transformative a moment for tourism globally as this one, and that of course applies to Greece too (but not, thankfully, Grease 2). Here's a recap as we head into what is going to be a decidedly less merry than usual month of May—note that all progressive reopenings are reviewed every 24 hours and therefore subject to change:
Archaeological sites should open May 18. These presumably will include the Acropolis, where you can probably expect social distancing measures to be in place. Reopening of parks and gardens.
Cafes, restaurants and malls are still closed but will reopen on June 1. But note, that's only for restaurants with outside seating.
The only-one-person-to-a-taxi rule will continue.
Hotels that are normally open year-round (chiefly in Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion and other big cities) to reopen June 1. More resort-y hotels, July 1.
Wearing of masks will be mandatory when using public transportation.
Mandatory masks in barber shops, beauty salons and grocery stores.
Normal travel to the Greek islands will likely not resume until June 1 or June 8.
Of course, that's just the official stuff. It doesn't mean that the tourism landscape is static—au contraire, it's about as volatile as Santorini before the volcano blew in 1646 BC. The broader preoccupations with the health crisis just means you haven't been hearing much about it. But here's one a bit out of the blue: a new boutique near the Acropolis was ordered to demolish its top two floors because neighbors complained it obstructed their views of the Parthenon. The gods of zoning must be having a field day with this one, but it's a bit unfortunate as the hotel, Coco-Mat Athens BC, is one of our favorites and has only been open for about a year. Read more here.
Over the past couple of years I've written about many hotel openings not only in Greece but also Cyprus and Israel and while I have my share of favorites, I thought the Athens hotel market was getting a little overheated—after all, as Greece's Minister of Tourism, the very on-the-ball Harry Theoharis, noted during a recent interview in New York, in summer (before the corona sh*t hit the fan, natch) Heraklion's airport sees more flights than Athens. And now according to a Greek press report 3,000 hotels will not be opening at all in 2020, and 113 are up for sale (!)
The same news report says that an Israeli company with hotel plans in Athens, Thessaloniki and elsewhere in Greece is "preparing its exit from Greece," and while rumored to be the Tel Aviv-based Brown Hotel group that is not verified.
The six million dollar question remains planes. As for travel on Aegean, Greece's flag carrier, we reached out to the airline for word on when international service will be restored, and whether this will happen all at once or incrementally, but that information will not be available until the relevant official guidelines are released.