By Jean Christou
Tourism arrivals were up 7.7 per cent in January and February this year compared to the same period last year, according to CTO chairman Angelos Loizou.
In the first two months of the year, tourist arrivals totaled 92,508 compared with 85,903 in the same period of 2014.
Loizou told the Cyprus News Agency that arrivals were due to increase from the UK, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.
All of these markets had been on the decline or stagnating over the past decade as Russian arrivals exploded to replace Germany as the island’s second biggest market after the UK.
But the decline in the rouble has left the Russian market uncertain this year forcing tourism authorities to go back to traditional markets to make up an expected 25 per cent loss from Russia from where arrivals totaled 640,000 last year compared to around 800,000 Britons. The UK market tallied 1.5 million some 15 years ago.
Loizou said great efforts had been made to lure back the island’s traditional markets, and Germany was showing an upturn for the first time in 13 years, he said.
“We had these markets until 2001 before increased competition from neighboring destinations such as Egypt and Turkey,” he said.
The upturn from Germany in particular was welcome news, he added.
“Already flights have started from two new airlines, Germania, which tentatively began in November but is intensifying flights from March,” said Loizou. German Wings, another airline, will from Wednesday operate the first of seven weekly flights to Paphos, where a special ceremony will be held to welcome the airline.
Loizou said there was also increased interest from France as a lot of French tourists were avoiding traditional destinations such as Egypt and Morocco “and they see Cyprus as a safe destination”.
Cyprus was also working to increase arrivals from Israel and the Arab countries, the CTO boss said, and the signs were encouraging.
In terms of numbers, Loizou said arrivals from the UK had increased 7.2 per cent in February this year and by 20 per cent from Greece while the Russian decline was evident last month with a 10.4 per cent decrease.
“We are closely monitoring the rouble because that is what will probably determine the movement of arrivals,” he said, adding that the hope was that by the time the season was underway, the situation would stabilise.
“It seems the reduction in levels will be something we can handle,” said the CTO chief.