The Tourism Ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus have been discussing a proposal to create a safe zone for tourism between the three countries, Israel Tourism Minister Yariv Levin’s office confirmed on Tuesday, according to an article in The Jerusalem Post.
Israel is cautiously examining the Greek initiative, which would not go into effect at least until mid-June. All three countries involved have had relative success in curbing the spread of coronavirus and keeping the number of severe cases low.
According to the report, the discussions are in very early stages and Israel is still checking whether such a safe zone would be possible, a Foreign Ministry source said.
The logic behind creating an Israel-Greece-Cyprus zone is that people are less likely to be willing to travel far in the coming months, but may be more open to visiting neighboring countries. The economies of Greece and Cyprus rely heavily on tourism.
One of the major obstacles to creating a safe zone for tourism between the three countries is the mandatory quarantines for arrivals from abroad; Israel requires two weeks of isolation after foreign travel. Another issue is that Greece and Cyprus are both EU member states that have open borders with the rest of the Schengen Area under normal circumstances.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz spoke with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias on Tuesday, mentioning via Twitter “the improving coronavirus situation in our countries and continued economic cooperation.”
Tourism accounted for 25.7-30.9% of Greece’s GDP in 2018, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation’s research department, and 90% of tourism revenue came from abroad. Therefore, the Greek economy is expected to be hit hard if the summer tourism season is canceled.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said “Israel is one of our strategic targets for the reopening of tourism in Greece. As a result, we have already started discussions and preliminary phases on how to align our hygiene standards and protocols which will allow travel to resume between the two countries. This is still early stages, but we are very hopeful that we can come to a mutual agreement.”
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