The Daily Beast
On Mykonos, Greece’s famous festival island, ‘Everyone is about to explode’
Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP via Getty Images The narrow, cobbled alleys of the traditional village of Oia in Santorini are usually filled with tourists even this time of year. The Greek island with the most famous sunset views in the world is always a top travel destination. But COVID-19 put the growing popularity of the Greek islands on hold in 2020, and although the warm Mediterranean weather means that the tourist season in Greece usually starts in early April and lasts until the end of October, the streets are relatively quiet. however, and the convenience of quick tests, Greece opens up to international travelers on May 1
4 after nearly a year and hopes to regain its former success. And business owners on two of the most famous islands, Santorini and Mykonos, expect the reopening to go with a bang. Giorgos Dimitrokalis wakes up every day looking at the magnificent view of the caldera, and even though he was born and raised in Santorini, this view of the Aegean Sea never ceases to amaze him. But for the owner of KD Hotels and Resorts and vice president of the Santorini Hoteliers Association, it’s hard to be the only one enjoying this view. “It feels like a completely different island. Unrecognizable. Last year we joked that the locals had the chance to enjoy the island for themselves. I hope things this summer will go back to as it was before the pandemic because the island has really suffered. “Unlike elsewhere in Greece, islands like Santorini and Mykonos base most of their economy on tourism. In 2019, tourism-based was just over 20 percent of the country’s total economy, according to the Institute of the Greek Tourism Confederation. It was the best. year for a decade. And then came the coronavirus. A view of Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece. Alkis Konstantinidis “It was summer outside, but the people on the street were as many as if it were winter. There was not even a soul out there. It was surreal, “said Poly Linoxylaki, owner of the Sand Lily store in Imerovigli. Desperate not to lose another year, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis recently announced that the government will reopen tourism in Greece from May 14. There are two types tourists visiting Santorini, explains Dimitrokalis, who owns 10 hotels all around the island: “At the hotels close to the beach, we have seen a more increased interest so far this year. Our customers staying for about seven days, are usually families, and most of them are Europeans.In the more central hotels, such as those in the Caldera and Fyra, there are usually travelers coming from abroad, such as Americans, Brazilians, Chinese and Australians, and they usually stay no more than three days. They come to see the island, admire the sunset and travel. “For Embark Beyond, a luxury travel consulting firm based in New York,” Greece and Turkey may be the only European countries open this summer “for American and because of that they suggest their clients to “reserve now before the floodgates open and it’s too late.” “What we have been told is that international flights to Greece for tourism will be open from anywhere in the world on May 14. We are just waiting for officials to tell us what the protocols for this year will be,” said Dimitrokalis. , pointing out that Americans are among the biggest fans on the island. “Most tourists who visit Santorini are from the US and Australia, and if they will not be able to come for some reason, I want big problems “, says Linoxylaki, who sells clothes and accessories, mainly made by Greek designers.” These are my customers. They support small businesses like mine. “During this time of year, reservations for summer would normally be around 70-80 percent, but according to Dimitrokalis, the number today is down to 25-30 percent. “We hope that more people will be interested in next month, and we expect that by the end of the season we may be able to reach around 50 percent of 2019. We set our hopes at the last minute to reach our goals, ”he says. say. Most of the reservations start from mid-summer, but all are optimistic. “If the weather is good, we expect to extend this year’s season because we are already losing the first three months,” says Dimitrokalis, and this is something Linoxylaki agrees with, although she is in doubt about the reopening: “We hope that September and October will be the peak of this season. But I have to be honest, I personally do not believe that we will be able to open on May 14, as the government said. “Like Santorini, most of the Greek islands also suffered their share last year. Among them Mykonos, the popular Cycladic island with its bright white houses and wild nightlife. When Kim Kardashian and her family traveled to Mykonos in 2013 to film the eighth season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim was pregnant with the North and the island was full of paparazzi … and lots of tourists. Overview of the Chora of Mykonos at sunset. Demetrios Ioannou Today, Iraklis Zisimopoulos, CEO of the Semeli Hospitality Group, which hosted the Kardashian family and their crew almost a decade ago, looks back on these days with some nostalgia, but with confidence in the future. “I am sure they will come back again; coronavirus does not last forever. It may not have been this year, but we see that the dynamics in Mykonos are not lost, and we are sure that even better days will come, ”he says. Zisimopoulos is also the General Secretary of the Mykonos Catering and Entertainment Association as well as the President of the Association of Businesses and Professionals in Mykonos Town. “I have hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, and everything is closed down,” he says with a bitter smile. Speaking to the Athens News Agency last September, Konstantinos Koukas, the island’s mayor, said the last season only reached 30 percent of 2019, and as Zisimopoulos explains: “Last year was catastrophic, but we hope this year will be different. It will certainly not be anywhere near a normal season, but certainly not like 2020. “The most important role in shaping it will be the protocols under which tourists will be able to enter Greece.” So far, we know that there are three options: 1) The people who have already been vaccinated, 2) Those who have tested negative in the last 48 hours, and 3) Those who have already been ill and now have the antibodies Says Zisimopoulos, a doctor himself. When it comes to Mykonos, people do not travel to the island just for the beautiful view or to swim in the crystal clear blue sea. They go because they want to have fun and everyone has only one thing in mind … the nightlife! Mykonos is known all over the world as the “party island” of Greece and a country where you can openly be who you are. Anastasios Kapetanias contributed just as much as anyone to this reputation. For the director and founder of XLSIOR Festival, the only gay music festival in Greece and among the top five in the world last year wa It’s the first time he has had to cancel it since it was launched in 2009. But he very much hopes for this summer. “People are thirsty for fun,” he says. “We receive many emails every day from people asking us to hold the festival this year. They tell us’ we need to see our friends; we need to feel free again ‘. Everyone is about to explode; we can not take it anymore. “For the Greek government, nightlife is not a top priority and will be one of the last things to open, and under what conditions is not yet known. But for the local economy, this is a big blow. XLSIOR alone brings more than 30,000 people to the island every summer from all over the world. “We have people who come from the United States, Brazil, Spain, Israel, and most of them are people who come every year,” explains Kapetanias, who also works with several local companies such as hotels. , rental cars, restaurants, etc. to help its clients. “Last August, when the government decided to close all bars and clubs at midnight, all reservations stopped and many canceled,” says Zisimopoulos. describes it: “People were walking around the streets looking for some villa parties to go and everyone was hiding as if we were at war. This is not Mykonos. “One of the windmills overlooking the Chora of Mykonos. Demetrios Ioannou The Greek government decided to vaccinate all residents of small islands with less than 1,000 inhabitants with some of the first COVID-free islands in Greece including Kastellorizo and Oinousses Could a similar plan work for Mykonos with around 10,000 people? Zisimopoulos is convinced that it would solve many of their problems: “If all locals are vaccinated, no matter what happens to the island, we will have a strong protective shield. a normal season we would have at least 10 reservations a day.Now the maximum is 2. The last 20 days we have seen some movement and we have some reservations from the UK, Israel and the US where the vaccination goes faster.Most of these reservations is for July and August. “Kapetanias, on the other hand, suggests that a good idea for reopening live festivals like his could be quick tests.” They could go to a clinic on the island earlier in the day, do the test, and h show it is negative, they can come up with the results and get in. We just need to be super-organized so that the people become completely secure. “And although no one knows for sure how this summer nightlife will be like the engines on the island are turned on and everyone is organizing and hoping they do not have to cancel again.” Due to the situation we will be able to arrange events “In dreamy places where other years it was not possible. This year most of our events will also be outdoors. Of course we will also bring the best DJs, musicians and dancers that we know our audience loves,” says Kapetanias about this year’s event, which has already been announced on 18-25. It’s going to be a year where we’ll get a big part of our lives and vacations back, and because we’ve been deprived of so many things in the past year, it’s going to make us feel so much better. I think really, there is hope on the horizon, “says Zisimopoulos. Kapetanias agrees:” To be honest, what I want for this summer is to see happy people who want to laugh, have fun, be safe and want to come back again next year. ” Read more at The Daily Beast Get our top stories in your inbox every day Sign up now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.