WWhen it comes to attracting visitors for what is shaping up to be a huge summer season, it really pays off for destinations to get a head start. Last week, the European Union announced that its member countries would soon open to vaccinated travelers from outside the bloc, including Americans.
Very soon, those who are fully inoculated with EU-approved vaccines – including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – will be allowed to enter EU countries without having to produce a negative Covid test result or be quarantined upon arrival.
But Greece is already one step ahead of its European partners. The beautiful Mediterranean nation is already open to travelers vaccinated against Covid-19, and that has kind of fueled a boom.
On the travel offers search site Hopper, bookings to Europe were up 38% in May from April, and travelers are looking for hassle-free places to go. While many Americans are already booking flights to the usual suspects – London, Paris, Madrid and Rome – in anticipation of the reopening of the EU bloc, it is clear that Greece’s advance has paid off.
So far this month, Hopper users have booked more summer flights to Greece than to anywhere else in Europe. Overall, the booking volume for Athens is “significantly up” compared to this period in 2019, says Adit Damodaran, economist at the site.
And there’s another big reason Americans book getaways to Greece, says Damodaran. Flights from the United States to Athens cost 18% less this summer than in 2019.
The green light from travelers vaccinated before most of the continent has clearly caught the attention of major airlines. There have never been so many non-stop flights between the United States and Greece, with new connections to Athens from Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
The result is that Greece is not only cheaper but also more practical than in previous years. And once in Athens, travelers can easily connect to one of Greece’s sensational islands, like Mykonos, Santorini or Corfu.
Iceland, another country that reopened early to vaccinated travelers, is also among the most booked European destinations for the summer, according to data from Hopper. Like Greece, the Land of Fire and Ice is a steal this summer. Delta and United have added new routes to Reykjavik, resulting in a 19% reduction in fares compared to summer 2019.
But for travelers looking for the best European deal of all, Hopper recommends Lisbon. “Athens and Lisbon are both up significantly in booking volumes compared to this period in 2019, with Lisbon offering particularly good deals on airline tickets,” says Damodaran.
This is an understatement. Airfares from the United States to Lisbon are down 48% from 2019 before the pandemic. A “cheap” round trip flight to Lisbon costs $ 516 this summer, per Hopper. Compare that to around $ 850 for a return ticket to Paris and over $ 900 for London or Rome.
This is something to consider when the floodgates for Europe finally open, perhaps as early as next week.