Who has not dreamed of taking a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, with its countless dream islands? When it comes to taking a mental trip, most think of well-known places like Mykonos or Santorini, but there are many others, less popular, that also depend on tourism and now offer an additional advantage: they are on the way to becoming Covid-19 free tourist “nests”.
Sifnos, with around 2,500 inhabitants, located in the Cyclades, is one of these places. On sparsely populated islands, virtually everyone has already been vaccinated, which offers a great advantage not only for locals but for tourists.
The risk of contagion for visitors, who upon entering Greece will have to present a vaccination test or a negative PCR test made maximum 72 hours before the trip, it is reduced to a minimum.
“Since the arrival of the pandemic in Greece, the cases registered in Sifnos have been scarce. Everyone has learned to respect the protection rules,” explains the island’s mayor, María Nadali, who is optimistic about the opening of tourism in Greece, scheduled for May 14.
The town of Artemonas, in Sifnos. Photo: Shutterstoick
A long summer
Although at the moment there are no concrete reservations, the mayor trusts that the tourist season will be better than last year, when arrivals fell to 60% compared to 2019, a result still much better than the average for Greece, which stood at just 23.5% compared to the previous year.
Nadali bases his hopes on that, due to the late start, the tourist season will last until fall, and that agencies are already showing interest in booking vacations in the more than 5,000 beds that Sifnos has.
However, the ups and downs of the pandemic do not allow anyone to make realistic calculations at the moment. Thus, the mayor of Linden trees, María Kamá, sees the beginning of the season with skepticism, despite the fact that on this island of the Dodecanese archipelago the entire population has been vaccinated since the beginning of April.
Tilos, another of the Cyclades islands with its entire population vaccinated. Photo: Shutterstock.
With 850 inhabitants, Tilos has 1,300 tourist places, and in normal seasons it receives between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors.
“All employers do maintenance and renovation work, but for now, until the end of June we have no reservations“, he says.
The mayor’s illusions rest on the people who will arrive in the autumn and in which the increase in greek tourism, which usually book at the last minute, although in 2020 tourist arrivals stood at 40% compared to 2019.
The popular Mykonos awaits her vaccination turn very soon. Photo: Shutterstock.
An alternative tourism
The great capital of islands like Tilos or Sifnos in these times of pandemic is precisely that They are not overcrowded and the tourist does not have to fear encountering massive parties, as in Mykonos or other eternally fashionable destinations. In these sparsely populated islands, in addition to the beaches, the option is to dedicate yourself to hiking or simply resting.
In addition to being part of the covid-19 free zones, Sifnos and Tilos have in common that their tourism companies are almost all family-owned. Agriculture and fishing, once the main sources of income, now play a completely secondary role.
Tilos also received in 2017 the sustainability award of the European Union for having achieved a renewable energy self-sufficiency And, in 2016, at the worst moment of the refugee crisis, when protests against the reception of migrants were organized on other islands, this island gave more than a hundred not only shelter but also a plot of land for cultivation.
The Church of the Seven Martyrs, in Sifnos. Photo: Vasilis Tsikkinis photos / Getty.
An unforeseen advantage
Unlike the rest of the country, on these sparsely inhabited islands the government of the conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis You have waived age or risk criteria to administer the vaccine and, based on practical and logistical reasons, has opted for horizontal immunization.
“We started this campaign to solve concrete problems. It was not possible to create permanent vaccination centers on these islandsNor do we send a team every week to vaccinate another age group, “says a source from the Ministry of Health.
Santorini, one of the most touristic islands in Greece. Photo: Matjaz Boncina
Thus, the isolation many of these islands experience during the winter months has become an unforeseen advantage that has turned them into “” nests “free of the pandemic.
Once the population of the smaller islands has been immunized, which began in January in Kastelórizo, now the Government has proposed immunize those with up to 10,000 inhabitants, among which is the cosmopolitan Mykonos.
The tourism It is the locomotive of the Greek economy and represents around 25% of GDP and 30% of jobs, so the Government wants to open it as soon as possible, in an effort to partially recover the recession of 8.2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) registered in 2020.
Yannis Chryssoverghis / EFE
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