About now, Charlie Chahine needs to be welcoming his first worldwide company of the season to his Suites of the Gods resort on Santorini, Greece’s hottest vacation island.
A couple of of his employees of 30 could be serving poolside cocktails as company drink within the island’s well-known sundown, his resort turning into a bit busier on daily basis as summer time approaches, bringing 2 million guests to Santorini’s cliff-edged shores.
“The scenario now could be at zero, nothing is shifting. How will vacationers get right here with out airplanes? In a submarine?” says Chahine. Round him, the whitewashed buildings of Fira, the island’s major settlement, are a ghost city.
With tourism paralysed by the coronavirus pandemic, Chahine has minimize his employees to simply eight and fears the season shall be a lot worse than even 2015, when Greece was compelled to shut its banks and impose capital controls to keep away from chapter.
“This time final 12 months, we had 12 cruises and greater than 15 ships stopping over in Santorini. Now, we see a ship each three days,” he mentioned, looking throughout the empty Aegean Sea.
The pandemic threatens not solely to rob Santorini of revenue and jobs; it dangers sending Greece, whose tourism business makes up a fifth of the economic system, sliding again towards the darkish days of the euro zone disaster a decade in the past.
If tourism is a wipeout this 12 months, some economists say, the financial and monetary good points born of years of austerity and three worldwide bailouts might unravel.
“This time, the anticipated shock shall be a lot larger than critical jolts previously,” mentioned Nikos Magginas, chief economist at Greece’s Nationwide Financial institution.
SHRINKING ECONOMY, SWELLING DEBT
The economic system is forecast by the European Union to shrink by 9.7% this 12 months, virtually a share level greater than in 2011, its worst 12 months of the debt disaster, with unemployment projected to rebound to round 20%, again to the place it was two years in the past.
Greece’s sovereign debt is anticipated to balloon out to virtually 200% of financial output, greater than undoing the good points earned by the painful public spending cuts that the euro zone and IMF demanded as the value for bailouts.
This time, although, there may be little Greece can do.
Although it has certainly one of Europe’s finest information at dealing with the pandemic, with 2,678 coronavirus instances and 148 deaths, its tourism business depends overwhelmingly on abroad guests, particularly from Europe, the USA and China.
Views are combined on simply how laborious the pandemic will hit the economic system. With the European Central Financial institution making certain that Greece can proceed to borrow at reasonably priced rates of interest, the federal government predicts an financial contraction of between 4.7% and eight.9%.
“I believe the deterioration will show momentary as a result of Europe is reacting,” Financial institution of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras advised Reuters. The financial institution sees a contraction of as much as 4% this 12 months below its baseline state of affairs, and eight% at worst.
“There are encouraging indicators that its response shall be commensurate to the measures introduced by the ECB.”
Although financial forecasts range enormously, all agree that Greece’s success or failure in drawing international vacationers to its shores this summer time will decide simply how unhealthy it will get.
A BIG, FAT ZERO
“We’re like farmers praying for rain, desperately hoping for some exercise to hold us by the winter,” mentioned Tasos Mylonas, 58, the proprietor of a small resort in Paros, a well-liked island within the Cyclades. All his bookings have been cancelled.
“Thus far I’ve been taking a look at a giant, fats zero – however the payments maintain coming,” he mentioned.
Mylonas, together with the remainder of the tourism business, hopes that abroad lockdowns will proceed to ease and flights can start to select up shortly.
The federal government is focusing its efforts on attracting European guests, and relying on Greece’s success up to now in containing the epidemic to reassure guests that they are going to be protected.
“This season isn’t going to be like the opposite years,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis advised Reuters. “I’d be a idiot to consider this might ever be the case.”
He mentioned Athens was pushing for frequent EU guidelines on find out how to maintain vacationers protected from contagion once they journey: a set of protocols that will imply they needn’t to enter quarantine, both at their vacation spot or once they return residence.
And so they should have the ability to unwind on the seashore, and never consistently fear whether or not the individual below the sunshade subsequent to them has come from a spot with a excessive an infection fee, he mentioned.
Even when there’s a massive pick-up subsequent 12 months, the tourism business expects it will likely be years earlier than it generates something lie the 18 billion euros it made final 12 months.
“To be sensible, 2021 shall be a 12 months of restoration – however we won’t be able to realize the income of 2019 earlier than 2023,” mentioned Yannis Retsos, head of the Greek Tourism Confederation.
Of the 700,000 who labored within the sector final 12 months, many might by no means get their jobs again.
(This story has been revealed from a wire company with out modifications to the textual content)