Greece vs. Portugal battle for EU’s safest vacation spot

Portuguese PM António Costa believes his country remains as attractive as ever & has launched a campaign highlighting its safety

With COVID-19 lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus winding down in many countries – but not the United States- countries dependent on tourism are racing to show they’re the safest, with Portugal and Greece dueling.

Tourism is the biggest revenue engine for Greece, bringing in as much as 18-20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 179.2 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and the major employer.

In a feature on the battle for visitors, CNN noted that Greece’s record in holding down the number of cases and deaths was a draw and that both countries offer a similar package of beaches, food, history and sun – Greece has the advantage its renowned islands though.

Greece also has a big edge in safety, ranking 90th in the world with the number of cases and Portugal 34th with more than 10 times more cases than Greece and eight times the fatalities.

There’s a lot at stake: their economies, with both governments wanting to woo people, Greece putting strict hygiene protocols in place as it opened Athens’ and Thessaloniki’s airports on June 15 to visitors from countries with safe records and set to reopen all other regional airports and invite everyone beginning July 1 to save the summer.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa believes his country remains as attractive as ever, but has launched a new campaign highlighting its safety. “All the reasons to visit Portugal are still here so tourists are welcome,” he told CNN.

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But the statistics he touted are far higher than Greece’s for countries with similar populations, Portugal having about 500,000 fewer inhabitants, further highlighting Greece’s better record.

But Costa said, trying to twist the numbers that, “we are among the countries that tested the most, we’re one of the countries that better knows the real spread of the virus, where the numbers are the safest and where people can come with confidence.”

He added that, “Confidence will be one of the differentiating factors at the moment of choosing where to go on holidays — I think that Portugal is a good destination.”

Sounded a lot like Mitsotakis who said Greece’s top priority was safety although health regulations on the mainland were being widely defied or ignored, including crowds gathering at bars, the hottest breeding spot for the virus.

“I am not interested in making Greece the number one destination in Europe,” Mitsotakis said. “I am interested in making Greece the safest destination in Europe”.

Read more: The National Herald