Kastellorizo has been the first of several Greek islands with fewer than 1,000 residents who have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus ahead of this year’s tourist season.
The island will as a result receive “Covid-free” references in the global tourist media along with the islands of Fourni, Kalamos, Kastos, Meganissi, Inousses, Psara and Thimena, reported the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
Islands that have received the first of the two vaccine rounds include Agathonissi, Arki, Erikoussa, Gavdos, Halki, Lipsi, Nissiros, Othoni, Mathraki and Tilos.
While the islands are relatively remote, they enjoy visits from a dedicated tourist base and the completion of the vaccination programme will have added to hopes of a better season than last year.
The first round of vaccinations took place at Kastellorizo between 27 and 30 January.
With 90 percent of the island’s population involved in tourism, the island’s deputy mayor Statos Amygdalos said that residents now looked forward to a better tourist year as a result of the vaccinations.
Mr Amygdalos said that there was an increase in interest to visit the island but that this was not as yet reflected in a rise in bookings.
Last year, pandemic restrictions saw a big drop in reservations particularly from diaspora communities in Australia.
The island is also a destination for visitors from Turkey. On a good year, the island may receive as many as 1,000 people – there are 500 residents and the island can only accommodate up to 500 tourists.
At the peak of the season, up to eight ferries may visit the island every week.
The larger and better known Aegean islands of Skopelos, Andros, Ios and Sifnos have also either completed or in the process of completing their vaccination programmes.
In Laconia, in the south-east Peloponnese, vaccinations are also proceeding at pace. Laconia Hoteliers Association spokesperson Dimitris Pollalis was optimistic for a good July and August and did not rule out an extension of the tourist season in the area.
The head of tourism-marketing group MTC, Nikos Martakis, whose company promotes a number of island destinations said officials were increasingly aware of the importance of wide-ranging vaccination drives as an incentive to attracting more tourists this year.
He said health safety considerations were more important that the beauty of a location. He added that his organisation was running a campaign to encourage residents to follow vaccination measures.
He said that while he agreed with Greek government policies in relation to tourism, he said it was also necessary to address disincentives to vaccinations such as the cost of tests or the lack of time required to become vaccinated before travelling.
Meanwhile, Kathemerini reported that the Greek government has prepared an anti-COVID plan that will make Greece a top tourist destination by May. As part of the plan, 800,000 tourism industry workers along with island residents will be given top priority in receiving vaccinations after vulnerable groups.
The tourism season will begin on 15 April when tourists from Israel and the European Union allowed entry. Tourists from the rest of the world will be allowed in on 14 May when the relaunch of cruises and yachting will also be given the green light.