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  • Feature: Greece's Blue Flag certified beaches reopen to tourists

    Source: Xinhua| 2021-05-23 01:09:19|Editor: huaxia
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    People sunbathe along the beaches of Glyfada, a southern suburb of Athens, Greece, May 20, 2021. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

    ATHENS, May 22 (Xinhua) -- A drone makes regular rounds these days over the beaches of Glyfada, a southern suburb of Athens, monitoring the distance between sunbeds and umbrellas, while hand sanitizers are strategically placed next to showers and lifeguards' towers.

    Drawing lessons from last year's COVID-19 drama, the Greek authorities reopened the country's beaches earlier this month using tested safety protocols, new ideas and a freshly obtained prestigious international certification for clean waters and top-quality operation.

    A total of 545 beaches, 16 marinas and six tourism boats in the country have won the prestigious Blue Flag award for 2021, putting Greece in second place among 49 contenders, the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN), the national operator of the program, announced this week.

    The Blue Flag, given by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education, is awarded annually to sites meeting more than 30 stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria.

    "Each Blue Flag that flies on our shores, marinas and tourist boats testifies to the integrated and high-quality services, and also contributes to the desire to return in every way to normality. This year, once again, Greece emerges as a clean, healthy and safe destination in the midst of this pandemic," Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told an online event organized by the HSPN for the presentation of the awards.

    "Greece is entering a new period of sustainable tourism, a new period of tourism development that will be guided by the global principles of sustainability," Angela Gerekou, president of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), added.

    Greece reopened to international tourism last week, expecting to double the number of visitors and revenues compared to last year, officials and experts have told Xinhua.

    The tourism industry has been a strong pillar of the Greek economy for decades, accounting for about a fifth of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

    In 2020, around six million tourists visited Greece, generating more than four billion euros (4.9 billion U.S. dollars) in revenues. In 2019, over 33 million arrivals were recorded, generating 18.2 billion euros in revenues, according to the Central Bank of Greece. (1 euro = 1.22 U.S. dollar) Enditem

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