Cyprus Mail

Ukraine crisis has no impact on tourism

By George Psyllides

THERE have not been any tourist cancellations or a freeze in reservations due to the political situation between Russia and Ukraine, a senior tourism official said yesterday, while Cyprus warned that further sanctions would ultimately hurt the EU.

The EU and the U.S. have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on people deemed responsible for Russia’s incursion into the Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea. Escalation of the conflict would involve broader bans and could then move to wider trade and financial restrictions.

Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) director Marios Hannides said there was no decrease in the flow of reservations from the two countries so far.

“The CTO is monitoring the political developments and we are ready, if anything happens, to act in a bid to avoid any negative effects for the economy,” Hannides told the Cyprus News Agency.

Tourist arrivals from Russia recorded an 11.1 per cent year-on-year rise in the first two months of the year, according to the island’s statistical service, while the number of visitors from the Ukraine jumped 85 per cent.

Hannides said tourist revenues from Russia were particularly important.

In 2013, Russians spent around €650m in Cyprus, with the figure expected to rise by €100m this year.

Total revenue from tourism rose 8.0 per cent last year, exceeding €2.0bn.

“We are on the right track and cautiously optimistic that 2014 will be a positive year for the economy,” Hannides said.

EU leaders will consider widening the number of people targeted by personal sanctions when they hold a regular summit today and tomorrow, diplomats said, as well as signing the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine’s interim government.

But some EU officials are wary of moving too fast towards much tougher sanctions, both due to the risk of self-inflicted injury to Europe’s convalescent economy and out of concern not to exhaust the West’s toolbox of non-military measures.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said he made it clear to his colleagues that sanctions should not hurt EU countries.

“And I think a new approach is gaining ground – an impact assessment must be done for each state and … there must be flexibility in enforcing certain decisions,” Kasoulides said. “It is not just us. There are countries that depend on Russian natural gas 100 per cent.”

Offsetting measures could be put in place, Kasoulides said, but he did not elaborate on their form.

“It is difficult to get cash but there are other ways offsetting measures can work.”

The foreign minister told CyBC radio yesterday that the Baltic states are equally concerned, due to a high presence of Russian-speaking minorities, while Bulgaria seems to oppose all forms of sanctions.

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