Dutch tourists trade lockdown at home for confinement in Greek resort

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Almost 200 Dutch tourists on Monday traded lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek holiday resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 399 euros ($475) each, participants will have "all-inclusive" access to the pools, restaurants and other facilities of the Hotel Mitsis Grand Beach on the island of Rhodes, but nothing else.

They will have to settle for watching the sea from their room or the hotel terraces, as no one is allowed to leave the resort where they will be the only guests.

"I really enjoy being away from my usual space and if that means not going outside of the hotel I will have to settle with it, but that's fine," graphic designer Amy Smulders told Reuters before leaving on the trip together with her sister.

"It's still a holiday, there's still sun, that's the most important."

At the hotel, guests will have to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres (5 ft) from one another. They also face several coronavirus tests before, during and after their trip and will have to quarantine for at least 5 days upon return.

Despite the restrictions, demand for the trip was high, with around 25,000 people signing up last month in the hope of getting a ticket.

Dutch tour operator Sunweb, which organised the government-backed trip, hopes the experiment will show that people can still enjoy a holiday, even with strict safety regimes, and pave the way for tourism to reopen.

"For the travel industry it's extremely important. I don't think that a lot of companies will survive another summer without travelling," Sunweb Chief Executive Mattijs ten Brink said.

Confining people to resorts, however, probably won't be the solution on the long run, he added.

"But you have to start somewhere. So the next test will probably be including that people in a controlled way can actually leave their resort."

($1 = 0.8410 euros)

(Reporting by Johnny Cotton, writing by Bart Meijer; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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