Despite the sad times we experience due to Corona Virus, we can still dream of our summer holidays and is there any better place than Crete, which revolves around sandy beaches, scenic countryside, and an encyclopaedic offering of myths and legends.
Despite an early end to this year’s tourism season due to the resurgence in coronavirus cases, as a destination Greece has won the safe operation challenge, which bodes well for a much better 2021.
Provisional estimates by large hoteliers and tour operators, as well as by leading officials in the tourism sector for next year see the industry’s activity recovering 50% of the record year of 2019, up from 20% in 2020. This is unless a serious resurgence of the pandemic takes place, or the standoff with Turkey spins out of control.
Experts estimate that the number of foreign visitors will more than double next year, compared with 2020, and if this proves correct it would also help boost the recovery process of the national economy.
Greek Tourism Confederation chief Yiannis Retsos told Kathimerini that “the conditions are there for 2021 to reach up to 50% of 2019 figures.”
Such is the positive outlook for next year that, for example, the hotels of the Sani/Ikos group have already sold 22% of their night stays for 2021 in the group’s nine units, management sources have told Kathimerini. At the same point of the year in 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak, the group had only 8%-9% of its capacity booked for 2020.
The same sources say that these bookings for 2021 do not include those who canceled their holidays this year and received a voucher, but new sales and re-bookings. The Sani/Ikos group, which currently appears better positioned ahead of next season based on the bookings reported, attributes this picture to its policy of covering the cost of testing all of its guests twice and to the strict health protocols it has applied.
Grecotel management sources say that although it is too early to make any safe predictions about 2021, they already discern strong demand for next year. Based on their contacts with major tour operators, the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine coming out and indications that next season will also include May, the management sources estimate that next year the group can recover 60%-70% of the occupancy of 2019.
This article was first published on ekathimerini.com
What’s the weather like in Crete in September?
Crete’s the largest of the Greek islands, and sits between the mainland and North Africa. It has hot and dry weather in September. Located in the southern Aegean, the island has the warmest climate in Greece, and although there’s some local differences in weather you’re virtually guaranteed glorious weather in September.
Crete has two very distinct microclimates due to the central mountains that stretch from east to west. The mountains act as a barrier to north westerly winds, so the south looks more African compared to the Mediterranean north. You’ll find things hot and dry in the south, although breezes will help keep you comfortable around the whole coast. Temperatures are higher on the coast compared to in the mountains, which can get heavy snow in winter.
Things are nice and hot in Crete during September, which has an average high temperature of 27ºC. You won’t need to bring many warm clothes with you as it stays pleasant at night, while the sea temperature’s an inviting 24ºC. Humidity’s low and ranges from 50% to 80%, while average rainfall’s just 10mm over two rainy days.
During September you can look forward to 12 hours of daylight each day with ten long hours of sunshine. UV levels will be very high, so make sure you bring plenty of sun cream and be careful in the midday heat, while sunset’s at 7.45pm at the start of the month.
Greece will permit direct flights from Britain to resume on July 15, a Greek government spokesman has confirmed.
Stelios Petsas said: “In cooperation with the British government, and following advice of experts, the government announces the resumption of direct flights from the United Kingdom to all airports of the country from July 15.”
Greece is exempt from the FCO advice against non-essential international travel, but a ban on non-stop flights was recently extended, making holidays more difficult. Now airlines will be able to restart services, just in time for summer.
Across Western Europe, airlines increased capacity to 6.8m passengers last week, up 47 per cent, with Ryanair alone offering 763,938 seats, up from 218,484 over the previous seven days.
However, Britons hoping for a last-minute summer holiday have had their options significantly curtailed. Of the 74 destinations to which the FCO has given the green light, only 25 do not have restrictions on UK arrivals. Malta, for example, currently requires all British visitors to self-isolate for 14 days, while Cyprus, another Mediterranean favourite, is still refusing entry to all UK travellers.
The Venetian Castle of Heraklion is called Koules, which means fortress in Turkish. It is an impressive fortress that surrounds the harbor of Heraklion, Crete. The Koules Castle is a massive fortress with two storeys that used to guard the entry to the port. The Castle was constructed by the Venetians in the early 13th century when they conquered the town. The earliest description of the Koules Venetian Castle exists in the work of the Florentine monk Cristoforo Buondelmonti in 1429.
The Fortress was primarily built for the storage of the foodstuff and the military supplies. It also served as the quarter for the officers and as a prison. A devastating earthquake completely destroyed the Castle in 1303 and it was rebuilt by the Genoese. The fortress was again restored during 1523-1540 and got its ultimate form. During the Ottoman rule, the Castle was again transformed to a prison. Several Cretan heroes who revolted against the Ottomans had been imprisoned in the castle and had been killed in the dark dungeons.
The architecture of the Castle is the typical Venetian architectural style. The construction was such that the walls of the Castle could protect the breakwater of the harbor. The Castle was made of stones. The ground floor has a vaulted roof with broad fanlight. The walls were very thick and were divided into 26 apartments serving as the residence of Kastelanos, the officer responsible for the well-being of the castle, as well as the dwellings of the captains and other officers.
A part of the ground floor was also used as the storeroom. There were three carvings of the Lion of Saint Mark in the Castle. The one at the seaside of the castle exists to these days. The upper floor and the basis of a minaret were added in the original construction by the Ottomans. Today the Koules Venetian Castle has been cleaned and restored many times. It is visited by thousands of people every year and consists of the trademark of Heraklion Town.
Tourism Minister, Haris Theoharis, revealed the health protocols for flights and hotels Greece plans to implement during the tourism season in summer 2020, once the country opens its borders to tourists amid the pandemic.
Speaking at an online event of the youth organization of ruling New Democracy, Theoharis stressed that the pandemic makes the setting of rules for the tourists’ arrivals necessary and that these health protocols must be respected.
He said that the health protocols have been prepared in collaboration with the Infectious Diseases Commission of the Greek National Health Organization EODY.
These protocols have already been submitted to tourism agencies for consultation and submission of proposals on their side, the Minister added.
In order for a passenger to board a flight from abroad to Greece, he must have received a health certificate within the last 72 hours that he is not a carrier of COVID-19. Without this certificate, he will not be allowed to board.
There will be no vacant seats on flights to, from or within Greece, ie their capacity will be full so that air transport is economically viable.
Passengers will not be served food for flights for up to four hours, but only packaged snacks.
Greeks who want to travel abroad should also be tested 72 hours before boarding the plane.
Greece’s request is that no COVID-19 test be conducted when tourists leave Greece. Tourists should be tested when they return to their own countries.
Tourists will leave the country without any control, so that there will be no risk of being trapped in the country and stay in quarantine. “After all, this would be a disincentive to choosing our country as a holiday destination,” the minister said.
“Quarantine hotels” in every tourist area
The Ministry of Tourism will rent a tourist accommodation in each tourist area of the country which will function as a “quarantine hotel.” Tourists who are found to be carriers of the coronavirus will be transferred there.
Each hotel or tourist accommodation will be obliged to contract with a doctor, who will determine whether a tourist must undergo a COVID-19 test. The diagnosis will be either live or via telemedicine.
The test results will be released within six hours so that anyone who is tested positive can be transferred to “quarantine hotels”.
Special training in hygiene rules will be provided to the staff of each hotel.
There will be no buffets in the hotels, except in small hotels.
Sunbeds will be installed at a safety distance to each other and will have a disposable cover for each swimmer.
Revenues, bilateral agreements
Regarding the revenues from tourism, Theoharis said that last year revenues were 18 billion euros. “This year we will have at most 8 billion euros,” the minister said.
He announced bilateral agreements with countries such as Bulgaria, Israel, Cyprus, for the free passage and return of Greek tourists.
Every day at 6pm Greeks turn on their TV sets and tune into a broadcast that at other times they might have missed. Like most rituals, there are no surprises: each time they encounter the same scene, two men, seated several meters apart, behind a long table in a brightly lit room.
The health ministry’s daily coronavirus briefing then begins with Sotiris Tsiodras, a soft-spoken Harvard-trained professor of infectious diseases, delivering the latest facts and figures with the occasional emotional plea. Nikos Hardalias, the civil defence minister, invariably follows, invoking the gravity of the situation with warnings that Greeks “must stay at home”.
The bookish professor and no-nonsense former mayor are the faces who have come to be associated with the government’s drive to contain the spread of Covid-19. Their efforts at keeping the country virus-safe appear to be paying off: in a population of just over 11 million, there were, as of Monday, 2,145 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 99 fatalities, far lower than elsewhere in Europe. Italy to date has registered 20,465 deaths.
Greece, it is generally agreed, is having a better crisis than may have been expected. Tsiodras recently allowed himself to speak of “a flattening of the curve” even if authorities accept that the prospect of Orthodox Easter, on 19 April, is unlikely to be without challenge. Traditionally, Greeks flock to ancestral villages in the countryside to celebrate the biggest festival in their religious calendar.
The country’s ability to cope with a public health emergency of such proportions was not a given. After almost a decade embroiled in debt crisis – years in which its economy contracted by 26% – Greece’s health system has far from recovered.
State hospitals bore the brunt of cuts demanded in return for rescue loans from international lenders to keep the nation afloat and in the euro zone. With the epidemic’s arrival in Europe, officials were forced to acknowledge, 18 months after the country exited its third bailout, that it had only 560 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
It was a stark reality that left no room for mitigation strategy, or contemplating policies of achieving “herd immunity”.
Greece, like Italy, also has a large elderly population, with about a quarter of pensionable age. “There were realities, weaknesses, that we were very aware of,” said Dr Andreas Mentis who heads the Hellenic Pasteur Institute. “Before the first case was diagnosed, we had started examining people and isolating them. Incoming flights, especially from China, were monitored. Later, when others began to be repatriated from Spain, for example, we made sure they were quarantined in hotels.”
Mentis sits on the scientific committee that advises the centre-right government on the deadly disease. What is increasingly being seen as textbook crisis management, even by political foes, has been attributed as much to prioritising science over politics as to a managerial approach that focused on what the 51-year-old prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has described as “state-sensitivity, co-ordination, resolve and swiftness”.
Alex Patelis, Mitsotakis’ economics adviser, said: “There are problems you can solve through spin and others that require truth and transparency. It was very clear we needed experts and we needed to listen to them. That said, Greeks have been through crisis; they know what it is. I think that also enabled them to adapt and be stoic.”
From the outset the 25-strong committee pushed for the socially disruptive choice of lock down, a devastating option for a country that had only just begun to show signs of economic rejuvenation.
The warmest day over the next 25 days weather in Crete is forecast to be Saturday 14th March 2020 at 19°C (66°F) and the warmest night on Thursday 12th March 2020 at 11°C (52°F). The average temperature over the next 25 days in Crete from this forecast is 14°C (57°F) and there will be 1 day of sunshine . The average for March is 14°C (57°F).
Mon 9 Mar 12°C (54°F)
Tue 10 Mar 14°C (57°F)
Wed 11 Mar 14°C (57°F)
Thu 12 Mar 14°C (57°F)
Fri 13 Mar 15°C (59°F)
Sat 14 Mar 19°C (66°F)
- Best Time for Good Weather and Swimming: The warmest weather in Crete (and all the Greek islands) is between late May and early October when it’s sunny, hot, and the water is perfect for swimming. Water temperature heats throughout the summer months and is warmest in August and early September. Since most people go to Crete for the beaches it’s pretty quiet at the holiday spots in early May and late October though the weather is still quite nice.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: If you’re visiting Crete more for the sights, history, wineries, and food then you don’t need hot temperatures just warm pleasant weather. So the months of late March, April, May, October, and early November are great times for touring the sights. The weather is still warm by northern european standards though there can be some rain and warmer clothing should be packed. Crete’s main cities of Heraklion, Chania, and Rehtymnon have a large local population and stay active and open year-round.
- Best Time for Island Hopping: There are some incredible islands (Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Mykonos) that are a 2 to 5 hour ferry ride from Crete. Hopping on a ferry and exploring these nearby islands is a highlight of traveling to Greece. Santorini has a longer tourist season than the other islands so you can happily visit there anytime between late April and early November (though check ferry schedules for connecting ferries in the off-season). For the other islands mid-May to early October is best.
- Best Time for Saving Money: Hotels are much cheaper in the shoulder season (April, May, and October) than in the summer months but there’s also a lot less going on so you need to weigh the pros and cons. Transportation, food, and drink prices tend not to vary much by season. If you want good weather but cheap hotels then late May, early June, late September, or early October are great times. There are no guarantees but the first three weeks of October can often have great weather.
- High Season (July to early September): Hot, sunny weather with lots of people – but never so many that it’s unenjoyable. Prices are at their peak. Sea water at its warmest and best for swimming. Ferries and flights run with the greatest frequency. If you’re in Crete for the buzz and nightlife of the larger towns then this is the time to visit.
- Shoulder Season (May and June, September and early October): Great weather. Sunny and warm but not blazingly hot like the summer. Tourists are around but it’s never crowded. Everything is open in June and September but May and October will definitely see some closed doors. The sea might not be warm enough for swimming in May and October.
- Low Season (late October to April): This is winter and that means gray skies, cool weather, and rain. The main towns of Heraklion, Chania, and Rethymno have large local populations and never go completely dead, even in winter. Ferries and flights have very limited schedules though there’ll be at least one a day going to Athens.