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Leading international tour operators are considering to extend the tourism season in Greece into winter, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said on Sunday.

Responding to criticism by main opposition party Syriza on the way Greece reopened to tourism, Minister Theoharis presented results on the policy the government followed for the industry’s restart after the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.

“Βig travel giants such as TUI, DER, JET2 and FTI are extending their programs until late November for the first time and possibly into December, depending on the development of the health situation,” Minister Theoharis said, adding that the European Union is discussing the possibility of establishing a common Passenger Locator Form (PLF) based on the Greek model.

During his speech, the minister presented a series of prestigious foreign media publications with positive reviews about Greece as a tourism destination for 2020.

Emphasizing that the ministry’s tourism opening plan was prepared and carried out in cooperation with relevant ministries, health agencies and the private sector, Theoharis made special reference to Greece’s AI screening and testing program – nicknamed “Eva” – which is said to be the first of its kind in the world. As he highlighted, the “Eva” program improved the effectiveness of information on a country’s Covid-19 situation, allowing Greece to close its borders in a timely manner when it was deemed necessary.

Moreover, the minister underlined the ministry’s actions that contributed to the expansion of the tourism season, such as the promotional campaigns Greece From Home, Destination Greece – Health First and Endless Greek Summer.

“Greece also collaborated with the cruise sector and was one of the first countries to open to tourists,” he said.

He also announced that the ministry is currently planning to launch new social tourism programs for domestic tourism in order to strengthen the demand for winter destinations. The existing social tourism program will be extended for next year.

Regarding this year’s tourism revenue, the minister pointed out that quantitative targets were never set and that this year the ministry aimed to offer quality to the country’s visitors.

“We succeeded that and businesses that reopened were supported with this year’s flow of tourists,” he said.

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis speaking in parliament.

Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis speaking in parliament.

The tourism minister also referred to the initiatives launched by the government to support tourism companies and employees affected by the coronavirus, including the repayable advance scheme for enterprises, the Syn-Ergasia program for businesses and employees, the state guarantees on loans and the reduced rent payments (by 40 percent) for businesses.

Minister Theoharis gave his speech prior to a vote that took place in parliament regarding the motion of censure tabled against Finance Minister Christos Staikouras by main opposition Syriza, with regard to the new bankruptcy law.

Following a vote (158-133), the motion of censure was rejected by parliament.

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